India’s reputation as an
incredible nation extends beyond scientific achievements, and its cultural prowess is
leaving an indelible mark worldwide. While the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) conquers space with missions like Chandrayaan-3, back on Earth, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) is expanding India’s
cultural footprint globally.
This organization is fostering cultural exchange through
various events and facilitating foreign students’ studies in India, who later become
India’s cultural ambassadors.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Excelsior, Rajesh Kumar, the Regional Director of ICCR in Jammu, sheds light on the pivotal role played by ICCR in promoting art and culture in the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory and UT of Ladakh. He emphasizes the significance of culture as a vital aspect of any nation and traces ICCR’s origins back to its establishment in Delhi by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India’s first Education Minister, on April 9, 1950. Since then, ICCR has extended its presence throughout India and beyond, with regional and zonal offices contributing to its mission.
ICCR’s Impact in Jammu and Kashmir: One noteworthy achievement is the establishment of the ICCR regional office in Jammu and Kashmir, inaugurated by the then President of ICCR, Dr. Karan Singh, on May 25, 2012. ICCR Jammu and Kashmir have been instrumental in promoting the culture and heritage of the region through its empaneled artists. This regional center has provided local artists with invaluable opportunities to showcase their talents on the global stage, a feat celebrated by the people of J&K.
Promoting Cultural Relations: ICCR operates as an autonomous organization with a keen focus on enhancing cultural relations between nations. Artists from various states and union territories of India are selected to perform in other countries, showcasing the rich tapestry of Indian culture. Every Indian national day and festival is celebrated worldwide through ICC Centers. The initiative extends beyond India’s borders, with foreign artists performing in Jammu and Kashmir, fostering cultural exchange and exposing visiting artists to the region’s unique culture and heritage.
ICCR serves as a robust catalyst in strengthening inter-cultural ties, fostering mutual understanding, and nurturing harmonious relationships between India and other nations and their citizens through a myriad of cultural and educational endeavors. Simultaneously, ICCR diligently champions the cause of local art and culture, creating invaluable opportunities for artists in the realms of art, music, dance, and drama,” Rajesh elaborated saying that Jammu and Kashmir office of ICCR is a boon for local artists.
A Bridge for Education: ICCR’s commitment extends to education as well. The organization facilitates admissions for foreign students in Indian universities, who, upon their return to their home countries, serve as cultural ambassadors for India. This scholarship scheme has garnered immense popularity, with six foreign students currently pursuing their studies in Jammu and Kashmir universities. Over time, thousands of foreign students from countries as diverse as the USA, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Yemen have enrolled in Indian universities for various courses, showcasing India’s robust education system to the world.
The ICCR Regional Director said, “Foreign students who intend to seek admissions in Indian Universities first apply and then their applications are scrutinized by competent authority. There after the selected students are given admissions in empaneled universities and their entire expenses are borne by ICCR. This programme is a hit amongst foreign students who during stays here learn a lot about our culture and then take home sweet memories of Indian hospitality, culture and art.
Showcasing Cultural Exchange: ICCR doesn’t limit itself to events and education alone. The organization also brings foreign exhibitions and troupes to India, hosting performances at various cultural centers and holding seminars. In the context of Jammu and Kashmir, this regional office actively collaborates with local cultural organizations and organizes monthly cultural events under its Horizon series, featuring local and empaneled ICCR artists.
ICCR also offers courses in Indian music, dance, yoga, and languages, regional director informed saying that it’s this organization around the globe that has been entrusted with the talk of organizing International Day of Yoga by Indian Missions/Posts abroad since 2015. Ever since then, the ICCR had been relentlessly collaborating with international organisations and institutions to hold international yoga day as well as promote cultural exchanges.
The ICCR though its missions in foreign counties like Georgetown, Port Louis, Moscow, London, Johannesburg, Colombo and many more keep holding Indian events that attract a lot many domestic people as well as tourists. The Council, he informed also organizes cultural festivals in India and even financially supports cultural institutions besides sponsors individuals who are into performing arts, music or even photography.
Rajesh Kumar also mentioned name of Dr. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe who is the incumbent President of ICCR and said that it was very recently that Sahasrabuddhe led a delegation of young leaders from nine nations to Raj Bhavan in Srinagar where Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha interacted with visiting leaders and listened to their opinions. These visiting delegates from Ireland, Namibia, USA, Iceland, Luxembourg, Italy, Denmark, Albania and Moldova were in India under ICCR’s Gen Next Democracy Network Programme and returned with sweet memories of J&K’s rich culture.
“We encourage every artist be it from performing artis, a musician, painter, writer, dancer, instrument players or photographer. The ICCR he said is open to educate artists about their empanelment and they can walk into the office to get guidance from our staff”, he informed. Despite minimum resources the Jammu office is catering well to Srinagar as well as Ladakh. The regional office here is doing its bit to reach everyone and empanel good artists so that whenever needed the same lot can represent India as well as J&K in its true form.
The ICCR Jammu office very recently collaborated with J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL), Tourism department and even Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences & Technology (SKUAST), Jammu and celebrated its 74th Foundation Day. Cultural program representing local flavors of Dogri, Gojri, Pahadi and Kashmiri remain focus of events where in artists are given platform to showcase their talents.
Future of ICCR in Jammu and Kashmir, he informed is bright as number of foreign scholars has increased manifold since the inception of J&K Centre. Twenty scholars have so far passed out of many J&K universities and many more are studying. We are expecting that more and more scholars next year who will take admissions and finally take home with them sweet memories of J&K’s rich art culture and heritage.
During their stay in India, students are also made to visit visits places of national importance which enrich them with India’s cultural ethos. In conclusion, ICCR’s tireless efforts in expanding India’s cultural influence on the global stage underscore the nation’s commitment to cultural diplomacy and the profound impact it has on fostering international understanding and goodwill.
(The writer is senior journalist)