Culture is one of the best soft powers, says India’s Ambassador Mohan Kumar, who feels the ongoing Namaste France extravaganza here is giving a fillip to the “good” bilateral ties between the two countries.

“Culture exchange has become very important. We keep talking about soft power. To me, culture is one of the best soft powers. And to be able to demonstrate India’s soft power prowess, you need to be able to have excellent cultural exchange,” Mohan Kumar told IANS here.

“The bilateral relations (between India and France) are doing pretty well and good,” he added, pointing out how Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already visited France twice and French President Francois Hollande was the guest at India’s Republic Day ceremony earlier this year.

Since September 15, myriad events have been organised as a window into Indian culture for the French people. A 75-day extravaganza, Namaste France’s aim is to showcase the best of Indian traditional arts, music and dance, theater, graphic and decorative arts, literature, cinema, fashion, gastronomy, yoga and Ayurveda, among others.

In Paris, over the weekend, the ambassador attended the opening show of the French European Indian Fashion Week (FEIFW), an event which brought names like Madhu Jain, Poonam Bhagat, Rocky S, Nida Mahmood, Dolly J and others to showcase their designs on the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Talking about Namaste France, Kumar said: “What we are trying to do is to show India in all its diversity, which is not very easy. See, traditional India with its classic dance and music has been done before in Paris.”

“While we are doing that as well, we are also trying to get Vineet Bhatia for gastronomy, we got the very talented designer Rahul Mishra to showcase Indian fashion design, we also had an event around Indian wine.”

Kumar said, “We are seeing if we can promote not just Indian fashion, but the textiles and handloom to tell the Parisians that even the Indian luxury market is expanding.”

Will this be an annual affair’

“Frankly, the resources necessary are huge. It’s not possible every year, but I think we should target having it at least once in three or five years. We give about 500 visas to people here for India every day, so we believe there is a public here that knows India well.”

Next month, on November 13, it will be a year since the deadly attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead and over 250 injured. But the spate of terrorist attacks across Europe has not really shaken Indians’ confidence in the region.

Kumar said: “For us, the biggest vote of confidence in France that we could give was that after the attacks, half a million people from India have come here. Just a week after the attacks, there was the biggest group of tour operators who brought about 3,000 tourists.”

“I particularly made it a point to go to an event in the evening where some Bollywood singers had come too, as I thought this is one way we can tell France that ‘Listen, for us, France is France, Paris is Paris, we will continue to come’.”

“I think a number of Indian tourists have come despite the horrible events over the past one year.”

(The writer’s visit to Paris is at the invitation of FEIFW organisers. Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at [email protected])

By Radhika Bhirani

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