Literature, the soul of cultural exchange, is giving conventional diplomacy a run for its space in South Asia with the mushrooming literary festivals that are provoking, discussing and building new bridges across cultures.

Five major literature festivals - the Jaipur Literature Festival, Mountain Echoes in Bhutan, the Kathmandu Literary Yatra, the Galle Literary Festival in Sri lanka and the Karachi Literature Festival - which have been showcasing literature as a medium of holistic exchange together with music, performing and visual arts and local lifestyles are forging a new south Asian solidarity on the strength of the region's soft power.

The Books for Afghanistan program recently received a Public Diplomacy Grant award of $4.5 million from the U.S. State Department, which will allow it to print and distribute nearly 2.6 million books by September, including 1.7 million copies in Dari and Pashto, the major languages of Afghanistan. That's a huge boost from its paltry 2011 budget of $67,000 from private donors.

India’s regional literature offers plenty of potential to appeal to a world audience in a big way through appealing stories, poetries, novels, folk tales and also by its children’s literature.

Written long before the emergence of the Taliban, "The Wandering Falcon" moves far beyond the Western media's stereotypical depiction of the tribal areas and lays bare the nature of a place that is now a focal point of U.S. and European foreign policy.

China's global soft power push is being refined through forays into Australia during the Year of Chinese Culture here. Ten writers recently came from China under the new format via the Chinese Writers Association, a government organisation, for a four-day conference with Australian counterparts.

“We have been doing several cultural exchange programmes with Zimbabwe. This country has strong historical and cultural background. We are very happy to bring a wide range of American artists here to share and learn from Zimbabwe,” he said.

Work is set to begin building a new town inspired by the writing of Yugoslavian Nobel literature laureate Ivo Andrić, following plans by film director Emir Kusturica and the Republika Srpska's government. Andrić, who won the Nobel in 1961, is best known for his novel The Bridge on the Drina, the inspiration behind the new town of Andrićgrad.