NEW DELHI: Much of diplomacy happening between India and Pakistan is "cultural diplomacy", former foreign secretary Shyam Saran today said and credited Bollywood as one of the binding factors in forging people-to- people ties between the two countries.
"Much of diplomacy happening between the two countries is cultural diplomacy. I mean look at Bollywood, it has fans on both sides, and people want to consume it. It is a common bonding factor," he said in response to a question on use of soft diplomacy in Indo-Pak relations.
"If a Bollywood film is not allowed to be shown there (Pakistan) then there are other sorts of problems that country possibly faces, so our film remains a factor that bonds," he said.
Saran said this during the interaction session with the audience after delivering the Eighth Pupul Jayakar Memorial Lecture here on 'Cultural Diplomacy: Leveraging India's Soft Power' organised by INTACH on the occasion of the World Heritage Day.
During his address, the former Ambassador of Nepal emphasised that cultural diplomacy still "plays second or even third fiddle" to traditional diplomacy.
"Cultural diplomacy has a much deeper significance than is captured in the associated semantics. We may not always be aware of this but culture provides the operating context for politics," he said.
He spoke of "cultural literacy" and "cultural empathy" as indispensable factors in acquiring a capacity to interpret actions by other states and navigate the inherent diversity that characterises inter-state relations.
He cited examples of events like festivals of India in Japan and Indonesia that he said, "brought out the power of cultural diplomacy" in building bridges across diverse cultures.
The former diplomat also cautioned about "hubris" that many may suffer about Indian culture's influence on other cultures, especially its neighbouring countries.
"Countries like Cambodia and other south-east Asian neighbours where Indian influences can be seen in their culture, but it doesn't mean we (Indians) should feel superior about it. They have been influenced by our culture, but they have added their unique local layers and colours to it, and we need to be humble about our cultural parentage," he said.
He emphasised that cultural diplomacy is all about "sharing and not showing".
"One has to have empathy and humility and respect for other cultures, which in turn helps understand our own culture better," he said.
On a question on Hindutva nationalism affecting diplomacy, he said, "I don't consider that monochromatic idea as culture.
India's greatest strength is its diversity and its plurality and we have been accommodative of other cultures for ages. It is this quality that also attracts outsiders to India."