NEW DELHI: An India-Pakistan pact for exchange in music, dance, theatre and visual arts could become reality next year with the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) renewing a dialogue with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), a top Pakistani official said Monday.
Cultural ties between India and Pakistan are ready for a new chapter, Tauqeer Nasir, director general of the Islamabad-based PNCA, said.
"Six years ago, the two countries had decided to sign an MoU with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, but it was stuck for cultural exchange. But we want to carry the MoU forward to promote people-to-people contact. Every Pakistani heart is open... India should also open the door of its heart to Pakistani art and culture," Nasir said.
Speaking to a select group of journalists, Nasir, a television actor of yesteryears, said the objective of his visit to India was to revive the "exchange that flourished during the 1980s and the 1990s".
He said the pact should be ready by next year.
"Like we have been pushing bilateral trade, culture is also trade. We want to push it. India and Pakistan have so much in common. The two countries share a civilisational link since ancient Mohenjodaro and Harappa era," Nasir said.
The official was in India - for the first time- to attend the Pakistan Lifestyle Week at Pragati Maidan in the capital.
Nasir said Pakistan was currently working with 58 countries and UNESCO in cultural exchange and India was yet to come on board officially.
PNCA, which earlier functioned under the country's cultural ministry, is now under the ministry of national heritage and integration, Nasir said. It has three arms - the visual arts department, performing arts department and the national puppet theatre.
Nasir said he wanted to create a market for Pakistani soft power in India like the way Indian soft power was in demand in his country. "Viewers from both countries look for Indian cinema and Pakistan's theatre on television," Nasir said.
"I want to invite cultural icons from India to Pakistan. I want to invite Gulzar and organise fusion festival Indian and Pakistani dance. We should think of ways to remove obstacles that impede cultural exchange because cultural exchange promotes peace," Nasir said.
He said Pakistan's Hum television channel was in the process of tying up with Zee television in India.
When told that visas were a bottleneck for performers and intellectuals from Pakistan, he said he would raise the issue with ministries concerned. Nasir urged the Indian media to play a proactive role in removing obstacles in processing visas for artists.
Walking the media through the potential of PNCA, he said "the national puppet theatre under PNCA was an amazing organisation of puppeteers who have been trained in Japan and China". The puppet artists go to remote areas and visit distressed populations - like oustees - to entertain them with puppet shows from traditional and contemporary literature.
"The theatre also takes up social issues," he said.
Nasir said "over the last year, PNCA has been organising Sufi Aman festivals of music and dance across the country and promoting artists from ethnic areas like Waziristan to bring tribal arts to the mainstream".
"We are collaborating with UNESCO in archiving tangible and intangible heritage in three phases. We have digitised our written and visual heritage in archives. Islamabad also has 14 art galleries with contemporary paintings and sculptures. The government also has a permanent collection of modern art," Nasir said.
"We want to host exhibitions of Indian art in Pakistan," he said.