India’s soft power got a defining global endorsement, with the United Nations declaring June 21 as the World Yoga Day. It’s also a well-earned diplomatic triumph for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had formally proposed declaring an International Day for Yoga during his maiden speech at the United Nations General Assembly on September 27.
The 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly December 11 adopted by acclamation draft Resolution, A/69/L.17 with a record number of 175 countries co-sponsoring it. It’s literally fast-track diplomacy for India as the UN declared the Yoga Day barely 80 days after the pioneering idea was mooted by the yoga-practising 64-year-old Indian leader.
India’s diplomatic activism can be only be described as a blend of speed and purposiveness. The Permanent Mission of India in New York quickly swung into action after the prime minister’s pitch at the UNGA. The Permanent Mission convened three rounds of informal consultations with all 193 member states of the United Nations. In a little over a month on October 22, there was a near unanimity on the final text of the resolution, on which all the participating countries agreed. This was followed by the circulation of the proposed resolution by the UN Secretariat as a “L” Document with 130 co-sponsors on November 7. Subsequently, till 5 December 2014, another 45 member states joined as co-sponsors, bringing the number to 175 out of the 193 member states of the United Nations. The swift execution of the prime minister’s proposal has raised the bar as this is the first time such an initiative has been proposed and implemented by any country in the UN General Assembly in less than 90 days.
The declaration has triggered jubilation in India and all over the world, where the ancient discipline of yoga – a union of mind and body – has found a growing number of ardent practitioners and devotees.
“The annual commemorations of this new International Day will also serve to promote other United Nations goals and initiatives. Yoga can contribute to resilience against non-communicable diseases. Yoga can bring communities together in an inclusive manner that generates respect. Yoga is a sport that can contribute to development and peace. Yoga can even help people in emergency situations to find relief from stress,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his congratulatory speech.
Mr Modi, a great believer in the redemptive powers of yoga, is elated. “Elated. Have no words to describe my joy….” tweeted the Indian prime minister.
Yoga as Global Brand
In his address at the UNGA on September 27, Mr Modi had made a robust pitch for yoga as the world’s answer to sustainable development and healthy lifestyle that harmonises the mind and the spirit in a strenuous synthesis. “Yoga is an invaluable gift of our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day,” Mr Modi had argued.
The idea of the international Yoga Day immediately struck a chord with the world community, with the leaders of Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh immediately declaring support for Mr Modi’s initiative. Mr Modi, the first Indian prime minister born after the country’ independence, is known to practice yoga daily, which he has said helps him to harmonise the heart, mind, and body.
Yoga’s emergence as a global brand and the most visible symbol of India’s soft power is a work in progress. Celebrities around the world, including Hollywood stars, have taken to yoga in a big way, giving a sheen of glamour to the ancient Indian practice. New York, among other global cities, is known for its love of yoga, with yoga sessions being held from time to time at Times Square, the heart of Manhattan and Central Park.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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