Richer ICCR on expansion mode: Director General

June 4th, 2009 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) India wants to highlight the country’s rich cultural diversity by introducing cultural cells across the world on the lines of British Council, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations’ (ICCR) new director general Virender Gupta said.
“We want to establish the presence of Indian culture abroad by opening up cultural cells like the British Council and are also increasing our fellowship programmes in Indian languages. We want more scholars of repute to do three month programmes in India to form greater linkages between the cultural institutions overseas and those in India,” Gupta told IANS.

Culture is high on the priority list of the government and ICCR has been allocated additional funding to meet its obligations, said Gupta.

“If the government wants to increase the standing of India, then there is no better way than that of culture. Multifarious sub-cultures exist within our greater Indian culture and the time is right to invest greater efforts in our soft power projection. Today, the world is more interested in listening to us,” Gupta, a senior foreign service officer, who was earlier posted at the Institute of Defence Studies, said.

Cultural synergy between nations in conflict is a great healer, felt the new director-general of ICCR.

“Culture does not help one find avenues in the immediate sense, it helps resolve conflicts in the long run because dance, music and food have no geographical divides. Cultural diplomacy creates goodwill - it does not just peddle for influence. It carries the message that we want to share and apply to the sub-continent, where almost every nation, barring India, is in turmoil. In fact, South Asia plays an important part in our future bilateral (culture) initiatives,” said Gupta.

India, he said, would see more of cultural diplomacy and linkages in the years to come. What has sustained India down the decades is its culture, he said.

The operational head of ICCR is currently coordinating the Year of India in Russia.

The greater cultural diplomacy, said Gupta, fits well in the overall political relationship between India and other countries.

“We are positioned today at a critical time in India when there is greater awareness about overseas culture, courtesy the information revolution. People want to sample overseas culture first hand,” he said.

The ICCR, said Gupta, was planning several festivals in the next two years.

“We will co-host a festival with China next year and another with US and Canada in 2011. The concept of festivals - which is a holistic presentation of Indian culture spread over an entire calendar year - is rather new. It covers a wide range of activities and is more contemporary in look. What young and contemporary India does is of interest abroad,” Gupta said.

Earlier, the thrust was to create a facility - a culture hub. “During (former prime minister) Rajiv Gandhi’s reign, the style of presenting India was different. But since India is doing well economically, people, who earlier dismissed India, are curious about what is going on in the country. The whole thing whether India is going to survive as a democracy is off the global radar - and has been replaced by genuine admiration for the country,” he said.

Gupta said ICCR does the bilateral festivals differently.

“We split the funding between the sending and the receiving nations. We paid for the passage of the Indian cultural contingent to Russia and the rest will be funded by the receiving nation. Last year, Russia sent the artistes and we paid for their performances and stay in India.”

The ongoing Year of India in Russia is a reciprocal diplomatic gesture by India in response to the Year of Russia in India in 2008, Gupta said.

The festival boasts of some of the biggest names from the genres of Indian performing and visual arts, films and crafts. “It also includes presentation by trade and tourism delegations from India and food festivals,” he said.

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