India's Bollywood Power

The world has heard much about India’s extraordinary transformation in recent years, and even of its claims to a share of “world leadership.“ Some of that is hyperbole, but in one respect, India’s strength may be understated.

What makes a country a world leader? Is it population, military strength, or economic development? By all of these measures, India has made extraordinary strides. It is on course to overtake China as the world’s most populous country by 2034, it has the world’s fourth-largest army and nuclear weapons, and it is already the world’s fifth-largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity and continues to climb, though too many of its people remain destitute.

All of these indicators are commonly used to judge a country’s global status. However, something much less tangible, but a good deal more valuable in the twenty-first century, may be more important than any of them: India’s “soft power.”

Take Afghanistan, for instance – a major security concern for India, as it is for the world. But India’s greatest asset there doesn’t come out of a military mission: it doesn't have one. It comes from one simple fact: don’t try to telephone an Afghan at 8:30 in the evening. That’s when the Indian TV soap opera “Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi” , dubbed into Dari, is telecast on Tolo TV, and no one wishes to miss it.