Soft power is a diplomatic tool in projecting one country’s cultural, ideological and economic capabilities in building relation. In world politics, it is important to have motives to attract other countries and this can be achieved through the concept of soft power. Power can be divided into two types: hard power and soft power. The concept of soft power and hard power was first coined by the American scholar and frequent policymaker Joseph Nye and define it as ” when one country gets other countries to do what it wants” and as “co-optive power”(Nye 1990). He later described that “the soft power of a country rests primarily on three resources: its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad) and its foreign policies (when they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority)”. On the other hand, hard power is the “ability to coerce others to do what you want and get the outcomes you want. Hard power uses carrots and sticks to get others to do what they would not otherwise do”. The main components of hard power are the military and economic power of a nation. When a nation uses the hard power it either uses its military, the threat of its military, economic sanctions, or the threat of economic sanctions to get a nation to go against ..it will, and comply with the stronger nations policy. India’s presence in international relations took a parallel to Joseph Nye’s concept of soft power and its resources.
In today’s globalized world soft power diplomacy has been a major player in the foreign policy of many countries and India is one among them. C. Raja Mohan in early 2003 argued that ” India could always count itself among the few nations with strong cards in the arena of soft power” stressing that India’s biggest instrument of soft power is its diasporas. Other than India’s richness in culture and civilization, its democracy and free media, dynamic civil society, and its struggle for human rights since independence makes it more impressive for the other nations and public especially in countries where this does not exist. The diverse culture of India has created great influence around the world in this regard. India’s soft power diplomacy has been a helping hand to Afghanistan and it is said to be at an increasing phase since the 2000’s. India has historical, geographical as well as cultural and commercial ties with Kabul which has provided India a way to have better ties with Afghanistan. India is an emerging donor in Afghanistan the main reason being the diasporas and the cultural similarities. India has been giving greater importance to soft power since two decades, especially due to the growth in the economy. India afghan relation is marked by its soft power projection and has remained unchanged since the Vajpayee era (2002). This policy got major importance during the Manmohan Singh era and this legacy is continued by Prime Minister Modi. The major areas focused on projecting India’s soft power in Afghanistan include infrastructure projects, humanitarian assistance, small and community-based development projects and education and capacity building programmes. During the era of Manmohan, Singh agreements were signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to help train Afghanistan’s security services as well as to provide aid with education, development, and energy. Afghanistan is now the second largest recipient of Indian aid next to Bhutan.
Afghanistan shares more common interests with Pakistan than India, but Afghanistan is more pro- Indian than pro-Pakistan. This is due to India’s soft power diplomacy. India has made a massive project based investments which have made India ass leading contributor to prosperity and stability of Afghanistan. India’s aid is around $2 billion which has made India the fifth largest donor to Afghanistan, at the same time Pakistan does not stand among the top 10. India has constantly supporting Afghanistan through various development projects, including three flagship infrastructure undertakings such as the construction of the Salma dam in Heart province which is now called as India-Afghanistan friendship dam, setting up the power substations at Doshi Chaikarand the Parliament complex in Kabul. These are credentials of friendship for the people of Afghanistan and this has also won India the hearts of Afghans. India is the first strategic partner of Afghanistan; this arrived after the signing of Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) in the year 2011. This strategic agreement has mainly covered the soft power influence except the only military dimension is increase training for the soldiers and police force of Afghanistan. Afghanistan having no independent TV channel depends on India’s channels for any telecast. Especially Bollywood and daily soap operas of India has a great influence in the lives of very conservative Afghans. India has been a place for better medical treatments, education etc, due to which families of many high ranking officials of Afghanistan live in India and also other Afghans travel to India.
The Indian government has encouraged in giving education to Afghans in India. Every year there are about 1000 students who come to India to study with the scholarships provided by the Indian government. This is one of the most influential ways in which India has maintained a very cordial relation with Afghanistan. This initiative can help in a better foreign relation, for example, former president of Afghanistan Hamad Karzai studied in India hence has a better understanding of the country and their goals to be achieved with Afghanistan. India has a major influence in the southern part of Afghanistan and has greater influence in the empowerment of women. This has contributed to the economic growth of the country. India has two major initiatives in the south 1) Hand in Hand 2) Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA )which contributes to helping women in the various field, which also majorly focuses on women empowerment. In the year 2014, first national agriculture university of Afghanistan was inaugurated, which was a major initiative backed by India in Kandahar. Ultimately, India has few primary interests in Afghanistan. 1) Establishing secure, strong and democratic state in Afghanistan to prevent an extremist takeover, this could, in turn, lead to terrorism in the region. 2) Not to see the hapless Afghanistan coerced to provide strategic depth to Pakistan in a later war against India 3) Ensuring Afghanistan providing connectivity between India and Central Asia through Chabahar port. Other interests include competing with China in exploring Afghanistan’s immense natural resources. India can also boost its economy through the utilization of Afghanistan’s natural resources and make Afghanistan as a means to reach the regions which are naturally rich in resources.