Soft Power in India’s Act East Policy: A Cambodian Perspective

India Quarterly, Volume 79, Issue 2, Page 189-208, June 2023.
In the contemporary multipolar world order, great powers are on the rise. As they possess coercive hard power, they also tend to have persuasive soft power in international relations. Soft power has become one of the most important dimensions of the foreign policies of great powers. Over the past decades, the use of soft power in the Asian context has gained significant traction. As an emerging power, India has begun to realise the usefulness of its rich culture and ancient civilisation as an indispensable source of soft power in the practice of public diplomacy. Specifically, New Delhi has utilised soft power in its Act East Policy (AEP) towards Southeast Asia, where historical connections and cultural legacy are deep between the two regions. In this context, the article examines the concept of soft power and its implications in India’s AEP. It argues that rather than asserting influence on the recipient country, India’s soft power is instrumental in building its international image as a benign power in international politics. The article looks at Cambodia as a case study to see how India’s international image has been perceived in the Southeast Asian kingdom, given that both countries share strong cultural and civilisational links.

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