NEW DELHI: The BJP-NDA Government’s emphasis on promoting Indian culture, epics and folklore is being taken up by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in a big way.
The cultural diplomacy wing of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) wants to forge a new direction by having more “intellectual exchanges”.
One of its first plans for 2015 is to organise a World Ramayana Conference. The idea was proposed by the new ICCR president Lokesh Chandra, who has been keen to highlight the linkages between India and the South-East Asian region. The announcement of Chandra as the new president had taken many by surprise, as he had been elected as a Rajya Sabha member during the Congress tenure.
“The ICCR is not only about song and dance. It should be about increasing intellectual exchanges,” said a senior ICCR official.
The conference will see presentations of papers and discussions on the spread of Ramayana across the world, especially in South-East Asia, the region known for having its own versions of the Hindu epic. “If you are trying to emerge as a leader in a certain region, it is, of course, useful to highlight how globalising the essential ethos of the nation has been,” he said.
“Following some brainstorming, a decision was taken recently to hold a World Ramayana Conference in India. Dates are still being worked out. But, it will be held in the first half of 2015,” he added.
Meanwhile, the organising conferences in India, rather than abroad, would be more fiscally prudent for the cash-strapped body. “We can sponsor more scholars and participants by holding a conference here, rather than in a foreign country,” admitted a senior official.
The senior ICCR official acknowledged that the decision to hold a Ramayana Conference will likely be seen by some as a cultural motive of the right-wing government at the helm. “But there is nothing we can do on that,” the official said. “The government’s priorities are neighbourhood first and act East. We want to follow that line. And one of the plans is to hold seminars and conferences here in India which was not done previously,” he added.