DHARMA DIPLOMACY Buddhism in India and China

Ms. Vaishnavi Pallapothu

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The fourth largest religion in the world, Buddhism has over 520 million followers worldwide. India and China are home to sites of religious and historical value for the followers of Buddhism. In India, which is the home and birthplace of Buddhism, the religion is viewed by leaders and civil society members around the country, particularly in the political and academic spheres, as a way of not only strengthening cultural and economic ties with various Southeast Asian countries, but also as a means of fostering connections and preserving the religious and cultural practices of Tibetan Buddhist refugees in India. In contrast, China’s increasing claims that Buddhism is a Chinese concept by releasing propaganda that it is an “ancient Chinese religion” is being furthered by building temples and promoting tourist trails, not only within the country but also in Southeast Asia. Preserving domestic stability, diffusing hostility in Tibet and acquiring access to influential Buddhist organizations seem to be China’s goals at present.

This occasional paper takes a deep dive into these contrasting standpoints and potential sources of friction as a result of both nations’ contrarian approaches. Additionally, the paper also seeks to explore opportunities for cooperation and friendship between the two nations. It seeks to investigate China’s intentions behind its policies, decisions and propaganda centered on Buddhism, as well as India’s efforts in building a Buddhist tourist circuit and enhancing its soft power, with the help of the same. In doing so, the paper looks at the myriads of initiatives undertaken by India and China with respect to Buddhist tourism, and examines how the two nations’ Buddhist diplomacy shape relations with the rest of Southeast Asia.

Ms. Vaishnavi Pallapothu has been an intern with the Chennai Centre for China Studies (C3S) since September 2018. After realizing that the only real way to see change in the world is by studying it and understanding the issues that happen on-ground, in-depth,she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in international relations, from the University of London. She is trying to keep up with today’s fast paced international and national politics and is seldom found not discussing them with others. A passionate reader, writer, intersectional feminist and foodie, Vaishnavi’s ultimate goal in life is to travel as much and as far as possible. She loves learning new languages and about cultures from around the world. A volunteer at the Red Elephant Foundation, Vaishnavi has written several articles and interviewed trailblazing women for the Feminifesto podcast. In the future, she would like to work as a translator/interpreter and diplomat.







1. Determinants of China’s Policies on Buddhism
2. Dynamics of Buddhist Tourism in China and India
3. Buddhist Connections with Southeast Asia
4. Buddhism as an Element of Soft Power





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