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Views of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) president

  • When the ICCR was established- Majorly, it was about scholarships to foreign students, cultural exchanges involving artistes and youths as also establishing some Chairs in some universities etc.
  • Now, we are in a world where every nation wants to influence and occupy the mind space of the global community and thereby add to its prowess.
  • In a way the limitations of military might are now more obvious and hence the importance of soft power is increasing.
  • India enjoys a groundswell of goodwill, but the challenge is to translate this goodwill into understanding of India.
  • ICCR plans to start academic programmes like an Understanding India course, cultural exchange between future leaders, mainstreaming of our traditional artisans through exchange with similar artisans abroad and converting Chairs into full-fledged India Study Centres abroad.
  • Promotion of all languages from India and not just Hindi is something ICCR wants to work for.
  • Since this is a knowledge era and since alumni of Indian institutions form an important segment of India’s soft power, we decided to take initiative and organised the first of its kind national convention on ‘Destination India’ in January 2019 in Pune.
  • Today, India ranks 26th as a destination country whereas we are third as a source country. We have to move up fast to be a leader of the global knowledge society.

What is Soft Power?

  • In politics (and particularly in international politics), soft power is the ability to attract and co-opt, rather than coerce (contrast hard power).
  • In other words, soft power involves shaping the preferences of others through appeal and attraction.
  • A defining feature of soft power is that it is non-coercive; the currency of soft power includes culture, political values, and foreign policies.
  • In international relations, soft power is generated only in part by what the government does through its policies and public diplomacy.
  • The generation of soft power is also affected in positive (and negative) ways by a host of non-state actors within and outside the country.
  • Those actors affect both the general public and governing elites in other countries, and create an enabling or disabling environment for government policies.

What is ICCR?

  • The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), is an autonomous organisation of the Government of India, involved in India’s external cultural relations, through cultural exchange with other countries and their peoples.
  • It was founded on 9 April 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first Education Minister of independent India.
  • The Council addresses its mandate of cultural diplomacy through a broad range of activities. In addition to organising cultural festivals in India and overseas, the ICCR financially supports a number of cultural institutions across India, and sponsors individual performers in dance, music, photography, theatre, and the visual arts.
  • It also administers the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, established by the Government of India in 1965, whose last award was in 2009.
February 2024