An attempt to win hearts and minds in Nepal
Familiarity can sometimes breed contempt. That saying is meant for people in long relationships but could also hold true for nations as in the case with India and Nepal, two countries with centuries-old social, cultural, economic, religious ties and similarities rarely seen between neighbours.
India may be emerging as a major world player but its stock hasn’t witnessed a similar surge among other countries of the region. And it’s true with Nepal as well which has seen an increase in anti-India sentiments fuelled mostly by political parties with vested interests.
Cultural diplomacy is a known tool to improve relations between people from different nationalities. This is the instrument New Delhi might be planning to use to boost its image in Nepal.
The initial step in that direction is a weeklong-long Indian cultural festival, the first of its kind, to be held later this month in Kathmandu and other prominent cities of Nepal like Birgunj, Pokhara and Narayanghat.
“This festival will show a bit of the grandeur and beauty of India to the people of Nepal. The idea is to bring in the diversity of India and showcase it to the people of Nepal. I hope with this we will begin a new cultural dialogue,” Indian ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae said this week.
Organised by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Indian embassy the festival would showcase Indian music, films, cuisine, clothes, dance, paintings and plays.
A recital by Ustad Rashid Khan, films by Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt, documentaries on Kishore Kumar, MF Hussain and exhibition of Rabindranath Tagore’s paintings are some highlights of the festival.
“Like all relationships it is important to keep nurturing our ancient ties with Nepal and there is never room for any complacency. We are trying to make it deeper, more meaningful and more interactive,” said Rae while adding that more such events are in the pipeline.
Increased cultural interactions between Nepal and its other big neighbour, China, could be another reason why the Indian embassy in Nepal and ICCR’s Kathmandu branch are trying to promote Indian culture in the Himalayan nation in a big way.
China has already held a similar cultural festival in Nepal and Chinese cultural troupes frequently perform in the capital. Beijing is also in the process of setting up a China Cultural Centre in Kathmandu as per an agreement signed between both countries in 2012.
Experts say contempt could stem from a feeling of being disrespected. Hindi films and Indian TV channels are still very popular in Nepal but there’s a growing section of Nepalis who resent India for New Delhi’s so-called interference in the country’s internal matters.
Last year a Maoist political party, Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, had temporarily banned screening of Indian films in theatres and stopped entry of vehicles bearing Indian registration into Nepal.
Connections between Indians and Nepalis are far stronger than the relation between their nations which has seen ups and downs over the past decades. An exchange of cultural dialogue could be the right way to strengthen ties and win over more hearts and minds.
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