Expo 2020 Dubai: New India-UAE council to boost cross-cultural exchange, ideas festival.


Newly-announced ‘India–UAE Cultural Council’ will see myriad of programmes and events

Dubai: The newly-announced ‘India – UAE Cultural Council’ will see a myriad of cross-cultural exchanges between the two countries, senior officials said on Sunday at the ‘Be Inspired: Festival of Ideas’ event at India Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai.

It follows Friday’s historic signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between both countries on Friday.

The new cultural council was discussed at Be Inspired: Festival of Ideas at India Pavilion at Expo. The two-day Festival is exploring innovation across sectors, with key speakers from India, the UAE and elsewhere.

Council’s tasks

The new cultural council will promote even closer cultural cooperation between UAE and India, a UAE minister said at the opening session of the event on Sunday. The UAE and India agreed to establish the new council as part of several partnerships in a joint Vision Statement by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which followed the signing of CEPA.

The council will be tasked with promoting facets of shared history, facilitating and promoting cross-cultural exchanges, cultural projects, exhibitions and dialogue between the thought leaders, explained Omar Saif Ghobash, UAE Assistant Minister of Public and Cultural Diplomacy, whose office has been assigned to coordinate the initiative with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

Omar Saif Ghobash speaking at the eventImage Credit: Stefan Lindeque/Gulf News

With the announcement of the council, both the countries are poised to explore the shared cultural heritage for paving the way for shared future collaborations, Ghobash said at the opening session titled ‘UAE and India: A Shared History’.

MoU on cultural collaboration

Speaking to Gulf News later, he said both countries have already finalised a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to have cultural collaborations between the two countries. He added that Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, himself took interest in developing the MoU.

“There was a great response from the Indian side, and us too. My team worked on that document for a few weeks. And finally, it was recognised in the official statement by the Indian and UAE leadership’s meeting. So that’s a great kind of step forward,” Ghobash said.

He added both sides are already working on developing ideas.

“We already know what kinds of things that we want to do. And the idea is to get as many possible points of connection between Indian cultural actors and Emirati actors as well. And hopefully this will be a model for how we can do it with other countries.”

The minister said he would prefer “a low-cost approach and look at the big impact.”

The festival was inaugurated by the Indian Ambassador to the UAE Sunjay Sudhir.

During the session, Ghobash and former Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri discussed possibilities of involving Emiratis in cultural events organised by the Indian expat community, arranging Emirati students’ internship in India, student exchange programmes, and participation of Emirati delegations in cultural events in India.

Ghobash said the first such visit would happen at the upcoming Jaipur Literature Festival.

Identifying gaps

Suri, who is currently a distinguished fellow with the Delhi-based independent global think-tank Observer Research Foundation and the co-chair of FICCI Committee for India Pavilion, identified a gap in involving Emiratis’ participation in the huge number of cultural events organised by the Indian expats who form one third of the country’s population.

“Much of the Indian cultural activities we see in the UAE is aimed at the Indian community. We collectively have a responsibility to fix this,” said Suri.

He added that the youngsters of both the UAE and India are looking to the West rather than looking at each other. “We need to get them to converse with each other.”

Former Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri addresses the gatheringImage Credit: Stefan Lindeque/Gulf News

While Suri proposed to find ways to connect writers, thinkers and intellectuals, Ghobash pointed out that there was a lot of room for translation between the literature of both the countries.

The festival is organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), in partnership with the Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy (OPCD) at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and India Pavilion and VFS Global.

The Festival has been curated by Teamwork Arts, India’s leading art and culture curatorial company and the producer of the iconic Jaipur Literature Festival.

Sanjoy K Roy, managing director of Teamwork Arts moderated the opening session.

The first day of the event also witnessed sessions on travel and technology, space sector and creative economy as well.

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