Diplomacy & Education: Nurturing India’s soft power in the UK

Diplomacy & Education: Nurturing India’s soft power in the UK

In this regular series, an Indian National Student Association (INSA) representative from Imperial College London gives an account of recent celebrations in the UK to mark India’s Republic Day on January 26.

Given the unprecedented situation due to the raging pandemic, like almost all university events the past year, the Indian National Student Association (INSA) Republic Day Event was also completely virtualised in accordance with the UK government regulations. This year was especially significant for the Indian community to celebrate their patriotic zeal amidst attempts to malign and disrupt our national image by a few vested interests.

The committee members of INSA Imperial had long planned for a grand event to commemorate Republic Day, planning to invite renowned speakers to address and interact with our sprawling student community. After ample discussion, it was decided that the theme for this year’s event would be “Diplomacy & Education”. Not only is this relevant for the Indian students currently studying (or aspiring to study) in the UK, but it is also a significant in nurturing the students to develop awareness and perspective to propagate India’s ‘soft power’ at a global level.

Agriculture to space

As our chief guest of honour, we were honoured to host Honourable Shri Suresh Prabhu (India’s Sherpa to the G7 and G20 and a Union minister with an experience of 10 Cabinet portfolios and a six-time parliamentarian) who kindly accepted our invite despite his packed schedule and commitments. His address to the students was well received and focused at length on India’s potential to lead the world in several sectors ranging from agriculture to space, and how the Indian diaspora should act as the ambassadors for India’s soft power and cultural diplomacy and advocate for Indian interests for global benefit. Moreover, he kindly answered some of the questions posed by our audience and attendees regarding his professional experience in the UK and across the world.

Furthermore, we had also invited two other speakers to address the students. Firstly, the event was formally commenced with the address of Shri Rohit Vadhwana, representing the Indian High Commission in London, who highlighted the objectives of the Indian High Commission and the productive potential of the student body in strengthening UK-India ties.

He also reassured Indian students (including prospective applicants) that they are certain to benefit from the UK’s new visa and immigration reforms starting Summer 2021.

Artificial intelligence

To conclude the event, there was a presentation from Mr Hardik Somani (a corporate professional and representative of NSA Bharat) on the deployment of Artificial Intelligence to restore and revive India’s cultural heritage, notably architecture. Interestingly, his work has received acclaim from the Honourable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, in his ‘Man Ki Baat.

Overall, the audience response across our social media platforms was encouraging, and despite pandemic hurdles and time zone variations, the turnout was impressive and reassuring. The whole INSA community is grateful to our chief guests of honour, to all our committee members for initiating, organising, and successfully executing this event.

Finally, we are thankful to our audience for supporting us in celebrating our Republic Day with fervour and patriotism. Jai Hind!

by Ritvik Shyam

Ritvik Shyam of Imperial College London is the Treasurer of the Indian National Students Association UK (INSA UK) and the host the event.

*This column is part of a regular ‘iGlobal’ Campus Roundup series.

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