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Yoga Diplomacy

Narendra Modi's Soft Power Strategy

Narendra Modi and Barack Obama talk as they walk through Hyderabad House in New Delhi, January 25, 2015. Jim Bourg / Courtesy Reuters

India has long seemed unable or unwilling to become a major player on the world stage. But the country’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is looking to change all that. In order to compensate for a small and weak foreign service, he is tapping into India’s considerable soft power: its emigrants, intellectuals, and yogis.

Modi began his premiership last year with a dramatic spurt of diplomatic activity. He has ratcheted up India’s engagement with its neighbors. His first overseas trip was to Bhutan; he visited Nepal twice in four months; and he worked to resolve territorial disputes with Bangladesh. He has courted China, Japan, and the United States through a series of high-profile bilateral visits. And he has energetically represented India at multilateral forums, most notably the BRICS meetings, the G-20, and the United Nations General Assembly.

But there are limits to what conventional diplomacy can achieve, especially

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