Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) participates in a mass yoga session along with other Indian yoga practitioners to mark the International Yoga Day on Rajpath in New Delhi on June 21, 2015.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21 hailed the first International Yoga Day as a "new era of peace", moments before he took to a mat and joined thousands in the heart of New Delhi to celebrate the ancient Indian practice.  AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH        (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

Bend it like PM Modi

The positive impact of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bends, stretches and stress on yoga has touched Australia. The twists and turns of diplomacy have taken a fresh cultural dimension with India building and strengthening cultural bridges with Australia through yoga and other cultural facets. During a visit to Australia in 2014, PM Modi had highlighted the need to connect people through yoga, given the great inclination towards it. “I know yoga is enormously popular here. We need to connect our people more,” he said. PM Modi had addressed a packed audience at Sydney’s Allphones Arena in 2014 and said that he dreamed of India being a “vishwa guru”  — guru of the world.

It’s time to meditate. Yoga stretches will roll across seven Australian cities during the next two months as the country witnesses The Confluence Festival of India in the biggest display of India’s art and culture.

As India prepares to tap its largely unexplored soft power, Australia looks at what we have in the “soft power toolbox”. Yoga gives the toolbox a lot of weight. According to Professor Rory Medcalf, former Australian diplomat to India and head of Australian National University’s National Security College, the perception is evolving. “It’s very clear that the Modi government has been working to harness Indian soft power and Indian cultural appeal more effectively that previous Indian governments have,” he says.

India’s vast cultural attributes are engaging people in Australia and other parts of the world. According to Professor Craig Jeffrey, director, Australia India Institute, Australia is a “lot more Indian” than it was 15 or 20 years ago. India’s High Commissioner to Australia Navdeep Suri is looking at a promising journey for India’s soft power. He says, “What Mr Modi has been able to do is put an India brand on it through the international day of yoga. Hopefully when people think yoga, they will think of India in a positive way.”

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