India/ 3.4 International cultural co-operation  

3.4.2 Public actors and cultural diplomacy

Roles of central and important regional/local authorities and the relationship between main ministries e.g. for foreign affairs and for culture

The two main central ministries that are largely involved in international cultural relations are the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of External Affairs. The Ministry of Culture cites international cultural agreements with 121 countries including countries like Indonesia, Iran and Japan from the late 1950s to new democracies and nations like Nepal, Serbia and Montenegro in the 2000s.[1] The MoC lists about 88 countries with whom Cultural Exchange Policies have been formulated or is under formulation.[2]

One of the main actors is the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), which extends international student support. It administers nearly 3,000 higher education scholarships granted every year to international students. It provides 30 fellowships to authors, academics, writers and outstanding foreign scholars interested in pursuing research on Indian culture and Indian studies. As mentioned in an earlier section, apart from the ICCR’s fellowships, India offers advanced training fellowships for students and professionals.

The Ministry of External Affairs’ Public Diplomacy Division showcases India’s cultural and economic facets. Established in 2006, it ‘strives to foster a greater understanding of India and its foreign policy concerns. Its mandate enables it to organise and support a broad range of outreach activities, both in India and overseas.’[3]

Foreign Embassies in India and likewise Indian Missions Abroad are nodal agencies having multifunctional tasks to perform among which is promoting cultural awareness about their respective countries abroad. [4]

Role of publicly mandated cultural agencies and institutes (such as the Japan Foundation, Institut Français, etc.)

The major institutions India has had since Independence representing other countries include the famous American Centres (the United States Information Service/USIS), the British Council, the Goethe Institute/Max Muller Bhavan, the Alliance Francais and the House of Soviet Culture (later renamed the Cultural Centre of Russia). For many years, these were the only agencies supplying access to books, art works and films from foreign countries, and fuelled both events in India such as the International Triennale, the International Film Festival of India as well as the Federation of Film Societies of India (FFSI). The importance of such institutions - revealed in statements such as noted film critic Iqbal Masud’s contention that ‘the New Indian Cinema was born in the corridors of the Alliance Francais) - is certainly not what it used to be, with the growing diversity of conduits now available for international access of both information and original work, and many of these institutions have themselves put out new vision statements redefining their roles, in the past decade.

A number of foreign and diplomatic cultural bodies play a key role in the cultural co-operation, promotion of international languages and further cultural and educational policies of their respective countries. British Council’s Connections through Culture (CtC): India - UK (2009-12)  supported collaborative working in the arts between the UK and India. It was focused on the arts industry itself, helping develop relationships between producers, festivals, arts organisations and companies with the principal aim of building strong sustainable relationships, and create an exchange of cultural products. It supports creative networking, planned networking programmes and development & showcasing of collaborative work among India and UK artists. Other such bodies include Pro-Helvetica: Swiss Arts Council, El Instituto Cervantes (Spain), Japan Foundation, Russian Centre of Science and Culture (RCSC), the Italian Cultural Centre, Iran Culture House, Portuguese Cultural Centre, Hungarian Cultural Centre, and InKo Centre (connecting India and Korea).

Apart from supporting conventional fine arts like literature, dance and music, in the last few years some of these centres have been supporting private entrepreneurs in new areas such as animation, design and fashion and creative industries. The following are broad areas that these agencies cover:

  • Support for artists and writers from their respective countries to exhibit, perform, read and discuss their work in India;
  • Support for residencies and projects, both in India and in their respective countries, for collaboration and exchange between artists;
  • Support for artistic and other initiatives in India undertaken by Indian organisations (such as under the Goethe-Institut’s ‘Culture and Development’ programme); and,
  • Support for exposure and capacity building for Indian artists and creative industries personnel.

As discussed in an earlier section, major international instruments are agreements of cultural co-operation mainly handled by the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of External Affairs.

Major instruments used in international cultural relations

(such as co-operation treaties, co-production agreements (e.g. film co-productions) or state guarantees for major international museum exhibitions)

Section 3.4.1 elaborates the extensive international cultural networks that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has formed. Some of the regional networks that the MEA has formed in the last couple of years are:[5] Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, March 2012; Andean Community, March 2012; BRICS[6], August 2011; Caribbean Community, February 2012; Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), March 2012; Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), April 2012; Commonwealth, August 2011; East African Community, April 2011; East Asia Summit, March 2012; G-20, June 2012; Gulf Co-operation Council, April 2012; India-ASEAN Relations, March 2012; India- European Union Relations, January 2012; India-African Union Relations, March 2012; Pan African e-Network Project, March 2012; Southern African Development Community, April 2012. The function of the above networks has been detailed below in Section 3.4.3.

Major developments in trans-national co-operation in the field of cultural education and training

An important recent initiative sponsored by the South Asian network of Goethe-Instituts, the cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany, is ARThinkSouthAsia. The project is a fully funded fellowship in arts management addressed to art practitioners of today. The ARThinkSouthAsia Fellowship is designed to help develop skills, knowledge, networks and experience of potential leaders in the cultural sector of South Asia which include museums, visual and performing arts and digital media.

[4] For a list of Embassies in India and their role see ( For a list of Indian missions abroad and their role see (

[5] For more details on the specific regional network see

[6] The acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa


Chapter published: 22-04-2014