Delhi: The Centre for Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, School of Language Literature and Cultural Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India organized a two-day International Seminar on the theme, “Indian Epics and Soft Power: India and Southeast Asia” on 6-7th November, 2020, to further strengthen the age-old mythological and cultural ties between India and Southeast Asia, at Convention Centre of JNU.
At the core of the seminar is the idea that in continuation of the historical legacy, the present relation of countries should reflect the shared values which are more profound than merely political and economic compulsions. The seminar focused on the deeper cultural ties that have been shared historically.
Major themes covered during various academic sessions include, cultural diplomacy and foreign policy, Indian diaspora, Indian culture and Southeast Asia, Indian epics and popular culture in India and Southeast Asia and others. The inaugural session was chaired by Prof. Kaushal Kumar Sharma. The welcome note was delivered by Prof. B.R Deepak who talked about cultural interaction among Southeast Asian countries. As welcome remarks, Prof. H Sumaryoto said that the shared cultural traditions are needed to be preserved by linking the educational institutions. Prof. Ainulhassan, was guest of honor for the inaugural session. He talked about the relationship between Indian tradition and religious text which signifies its universal appeal at every place.
Shri Shakti Sinha put forth the idea of focusing on greater peace and prosperity through soft power. Prof. Kapil Kapoor, delivered a keynote lecture on the dynamics of Mahabharata in which he discussed that the presence of the epic Mahabharata in Indian and Southeast Asian countries providing a sense of cultural unity through the texts. Prof. Keshav Mishra, Department of History, BHU, talked about the existence of soft power in Indian diplomacy even before Joseph Nye talked about it because we have been civilizational state. Kuldeep Ratnoo, director of India Policy Foundation has encouraged the organisers and said that the historical and cultural ties between India and Indonesia are centuries old, but long-neglected. This could be an appropriate time to revive these links. The epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata form the basis of cultural links that both the countries share.
Dr. Gautam Jha, the convener, and coordinator of the seminar gave a brief idea of the two-day a programme covering social aspects, soft power and cultural dynamics. Dr. Sheetal Sharma, co-coordinator of the seminar managed the proceedings of the Inaugural Session and reiterated that the historical links and cultural connections serve as the conduits of people-to-people contact and greater energy and life have to be infused in these channels. Dr. Saumyajit ray, Pratik Kumar, and Muni Shankar are the coordinators of the seminar. The programme is supported by JNU Jean Monnet Module and JNU Jean Monnet Network, REACTIK, Erasmus+ programme of the European Union, and Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi.