Discussion on “India and France – A connect through Art Diplomacy”

India Foundation’s Center for Soft Power hosted a discussion on the topic of “India and France – A connect through art diplomacy” in collaboration with Alliance Française of Madras. The event looked at the connection that India and France have through their rich artistic traditions, and how the confluence of these traditions can further strengthen the bonds between the two countries.

The discussion featured a number of speakers covering numerous fields including:

  1. H.E. Ms. Catherine Surad, Consul General of France in Pondicherry and Chennai
  2. Mr. Jonathan McClory, General Manager, Asia, Portland Communications and Author, Soft Power 30 Report
  3. Padma Shri. Smt. Chitra Viswesaran, World renowned Bharatanatyam artiste and Padma Shri awardee, who has received honorary citizenship to the city of Bourges in France, for her performances
  4. Mr. Bruno Plasse, Director of Alliance Française of Madras
  5. Mr. Romain Timmers, Founder of Compagnie Distil, a modern circus and vertical dance company.
The Panel constituted speakers from numerous fields of Art and Diplomacy

The Discussion began with a video address from Jonathan McClory, wherein he spoke about the status of Indian and French Soft Power globally today. He noted France’s position as being 2nd in the latest Soft Power 30 report, and pointed to its engagement with the rest of the International community as one of the reasons for ranking so highly. When speaking on Indian Soft Power, he noted that while India didn’t make it into the top 30 countries, it still excelled in specific fields such as Digital and Cuisine.

“France and India are not the most obvious of partners, and that makes any collaboration between the two countries hugely powerful” – Mr. Jonathan McClory

H.E. Ms. Catherine Surad, spoke to the audience about cultural diplomacy from the French perspective. She spoke about the various elements of France’s cultural diplomacy strategy, and broke down how and why they undertook such a strategy. She also noted that this strategy is not one that is superficial but that has had a deep and natural impact in numerous countries across the world.

“The question of Soft Power is, in our view, the question of the cultural diplomacy that we have been practicing since very long ago.” – H.E. Ms. Catherine Surad

Padma Shri Awardee, Chitra Visweswaran spoke about her experience travelling across France and bringing her performances to some of the lesser known cities and venues in the country. She spoke about the deep affinity she has for France and how she was able to experience the French way of life, while also imparting some elements of Indian art and the Indian way of life to the people of France.

“It would not be wrong to say that Bharath is my favourite country. But of the remaining, my favourite is France” – Padma Shri. Smt. Chitra Visweswaran

Mr. Bruno Plasse, spoke about the role that Alliance Française plays in ensuring that Indian and French cultural exchanges take place, not just on paper, but at the ground level. He spoke about the efforts to bring authentic French artists to India and of the deep interest that Indian people have shown to France and French culture.

“Though English is widely spread in India.. The love for the French language is still there in India and in Chennai” – Mr. Bruno Plasse

Mr. Romain Timmers, spoke about his journey to India. He noticed that the sound made by the balls in his circus perfectly mirrored the sounds made by the Tabala and Ghatam, and this is what attracted him to India. He started coming to India frequently and now even resides here. He spoke about the differences between his modern circus and traditional circus.

“The sound coming from a left tabla and a Ghatam is similar to that coming from a bouncing ball, which brought me to India” – Mr. Romain Timmers

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