India to project ’soft power’ with greater vigour

February 29th, 2008 - 7:44 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram

New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) India will project its “soft power” through greater use of its films, music, dance, art and cuisine in 2008-09 with an allocation of Rs. 750 million (nearly $18 million) coming from Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s budget. In presenting the budget for 2008-09 in parliament, the finance minister proposed that the country’s art, culture and films be projected in a more “sophisticated and subtle manner” and announced an allocation of Rs.750 million to the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), the government agency charged with promoting Indian culture around the world.

He said: “India’s music, literature, dance, art, cuisine and especially films are attracting huge interest around the world. This is the ’soft power’ of India, and it must be projected in a sophisticated and subtle manner.”

The measure was immediately hailed as “historic” with ICCR Director General Pavan K. Varma telling IANS: “We are delighted that extra resources will be available for the promotion of Indian culture abroad.”

India’s top cultural diplomat said this was the “need of the hour, especially since India is emerging as a global power; soft power is a very important pillar for diplomacy”.

ICCR has 20 cultural centres with two sub-centres around the world and also sends artistes on concert tours abroad. Besides, it also maintains 24 chairs of Indian Studies abroad.

Rajiv Lochan, director of the National Gallery of Modern Art, said it was “heartening to hear about the government’s initiative to support art and culture.”

“I hope visual arts will have a sizable share of the projected amount, to begin with. It should be enlarged gradually and I hope that entertainment will not take over arts,” Lochan told IANS.

Well-known Bharatnatyam danseuse Geeta Chandran welcomed the increased allocation for ICCR, adding that with a rising budget “the management of these resources should be improved”.

Having gone on several ICCR-sponsored foreign tours, Chandran said that ICCR should draw up a cultural programme for at least the next one or two years. “We usually come to know about our programme just 15 days before the trip, or even sometimes just as we are boarding the plane,” she said.

The Delhi-based dancer also noted that another area for revision should be the rates paid to artistes for these tours. “We get a pittance compared to our domestic rates, but we go there due to the prestige of being India’s cultural ambassador. We will certainly ask for increased remuneration now,” said Chandran.

With Indian films, especially from Bollywood - a big draw across the world and earning millions of dollars abroad - they have now become an effective vehicle to garner a larger share for India on the global mindset.

According to Tips Music’s Kumar Torani, they would be looking at the government to improve access of the Indian entertainment industry to foreign markets, which should automatically bring down piracy.

“We will certainly participate in any film festivals or other events that the government organizes to raise the profile of Indian films. Also, we want more legal access to markets abroad to boost the sale of legal compact discs and DVDs and concentrate on curbing piracy in foreign countries,” Torani told IANS

In the budget, the culture ministry will get a total outlay of Rs. 6 billion to boost its zonal cultural centres, the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the Lalit Kala Akademi, the Sahitya Akademi, the National School of Drama, the National Gallery of Modern Art, the Archaeological Survey of India, the National Archives among many other institutions.

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