NEW DELHI: In sync with PM Narendra Modi government’s religion diplomacy, which plays a pivotal role in its foreign policy, India has offered help to Vietnam to restore a Hindu temple in the country belonging to the Champ civilisation.
The diplomacy comes at a time when Modi is visiting Vietnam capital Hanoi. The Myson temple has a striking resemblance to Indian temples built during the same period.
Former Ambassador to Vietnam and present Secretary East in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Preeti Saran said: “The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has already surveyed the temple located in the Quang Nam Province and would take care of the reconstruction work.” The project has an added significance as the present PM Tran Dai Quang hails from the same province and there is an “emotional commitment”. India’s efforts to project itself as a champion of Hindu culture and Buddhist heritage are aimed at contesting China’s projection of Buddhist heritage.
A “resurgence” of Buddhism has been experienced in the South East Asian country and India has lapped up the opportunity by training Buddhist monks and scholars in the country that has been involved in a simmering imbroglio with China over the South China Sea. New Delhi has been augmenting its religious soft power and has been stressing on its Buddhist cultural ties with Mongolia, Nepal, Japan, South Korea, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Modi’s cultural bonanza during his Hanoi visit has similarity to his religion diplomacy during his Nepal visit last year.
Modi had offered 2,500 kg sandalwood and 2,400 kg ghee at the Pashupatinath Temple; and had announced Rs. 25 crore for construction of lodging facilities in the temple complex. However, experts point out that such a donation to the Hindu temple had overshadowed India’s efforts to restore Nepal’s Buddhist sites.
The mixing of religion and diplomacy has its own perils as the mixing of religion and politics and it is reflected in Pakistan playing the Islamic card at international level. Despite its projection of itself as the keeper of the Islamic heritage, it has not been able to become leader of the Islamic countries, even as the mixing of religion with foreign policy and politics has boomeranged in the form of radicalism and extremism.