The International Day of Yoga was “quite a demonstration” with massive participation worldwide but it has also brought up religious divisions in India, a state-run think tank here has claimed. The event has set two new records, for holding the largest yoga demonstration in a day and for “the participation of the largest number of nationalities in a single yoga event,” said an article by Wang Dehua, head of the Institute for the Southern and Central Asian Studies of the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies.
The article, titled “Yoga Day brings up long-standing sectarian worries in diverse India” and published in the state-run Global Times today, however, was silent about big yoga get-togethers held in China where the discipline had caught up in a big way in recent years. “It was quite a demonstration when hundreds of thousands of practitioners worldwide, along with over 36,000 Indians in Delhi’s Rajpath, performed yoga all together on Sunday, celebrating the first International Yoga Day,” it said.
As the homeland of yoga, part of the country’s cultural heritage, it is natural for India to strive to improve the popularity of this activity, the article said. “This time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is obviously attempting to play the soft power card by promoting yoga in such a large-scale exercise, in order to showcase India’s will to become a global power, boost the nation’s global image, and the most important of all, to unite Indian people and promote nationalism,” the article said.
“India was not really a united country historically, given the long-term diversity and divisions of its people even in the British days. Indian citizens therefore do not have much national consciousness,” it claimed. “Modi has realised that this can be a great opportunity to strengthen India’s national spirit and enhance national cohesion by promoting yoga exercises. But the bitter truth is that it will prove to be hard for things to go exactly as he wished,” it said.
“Modi has been laying out loud, clear and cheerful slogans since assuming office, including making India a super power by 2020. But India’s industrial strength still lies over in software. Hence, Modi’s efforts to promote the country’s soft power should be coordinated with efforts in other hard power areas,” it said. The article stated that, “Modi will keep facing resistance in the days to come. He is making a good effort, but the effects are worrying.”