Nowadays culture has become a vibrant means of fostering mutual friendship, goodwill and image among the nations. It has become a new language of bilateral bonhomie. There has been a belief that powerful nations promote their culture as a tool of soft power in other countries. By doing so, they recreate positive impression about them in the recipient nations. Such cultural exchanges that occur through diverse channels also serve as stress soothers at a time of diplomatic strain.
It is no wonder that the nations with necessary wherewithal are in a better position to enhance their cultural values and norms. However, with the ever-growing digital media pushing back physical frontiers of the nations, the cultural exchanges among them have become widespread, fast and effective. This has given rise to a new phenomenon – culture is no longer one-way communication. It is a two-way interaction. The perception that the rich nations dominate the less developed nations through the expansion of their culture has been rebutted. Now the culture practiced in less developed countries has not only received limelight, it has been recognised and celebrated by powerful countries.
On the occasion of ‘Diwali,’ US President Joe Biden has extended his best wishes to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists celebrating in America and around the world. He said: “May the light of Diwali remind us that from darkness there arises knowledge, wisdom, and truth. What is more interesting is that some influential foreign diplomats here have actively participated in Nepali festivals and cultural activities. They have embraced local cultures to win the goodwill of local people as well as promote diplomatic ties.
Nepal-based US ambassador Randy Berry and Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi have shown their love for Nepali festivals, tradition, food, song, art and rituals. They have made Nepali culture a viable means of broadening ties with Nepali people and government. Both the envoys celebrated this year’s Dashain and Tihar with their Nepali colleagues working at their respective embassies.
Berry put on Nepali Dhaka Topi and delivered Dashain wishes through a video that features popular Dashain jingle. Come Dashain, Berry demonstrates his culinary skill in cooking mutton and posts its video on social media. During this year’s Tihar, the US mission family made a Mandala at the embassy. Then, ambassador Berry tweeted: “What does your Rangoli look like?”
Two years ago, Chinese ambassador Hou surprised many when she danced to a Teej song, donning traditional Nepali attire. Last year, she along with her colleagues crooned a popular folk song resam phiriri to the delight of Nepali audience. Recently, she offered Tika and Jamara to Nepali staff of her embassy. In her Tihar greeting, she said: “I’d like to wish all the Nepali brothers and sisters a bright, peaceful and glorious Shubha Tihar!”
It is not only Berry and Hou but Felicity Volk, Australian ambassador to Nepal, also fell for Tihar, a festival of lights and flowers. In her Tweet, Volk said: “I think Tihar has just become my favourite Nepali festival.” She has posted a video in which she enjoys decorating her home with marigolds. In another video, she has greeted on the occasion of New Year of Nepal Sambat in Nepal Bhasa!
These envoys’ active participation in Nepali festivals and celebrations have given a new dimension to cultural diplomacy that helps reduce the negative impacts arising from the bilateral tension and geopolitical rivalry.
–The Rising Nepal