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ICCR Is 60

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In the fifties India could have well been called The Land of Snake Charmers. In 2010, it’s Incredible India all the way.

ICCR Is 60 In 1950 when Maulana Abul Kalam Azad founded the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to begin building Brand India, the general prevalent notion in the developed world was an India full of “half-naked sadhus”, “snake charmers”, and “elephants and camels”.

In 2008, when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and ICCR president Karan Singh, were travelling in a car to Siri Fort, Indian culture was the two of them listening to Hard Rock on the radio at full blast. “For me that is also an integral part of Indian culture and when we discovered we both love Rock music, we spent the time listening to music in a car,” said Singh.

Today, on the eve of the 60th  anniversary of the council, when someone mentions elephants on the roads to DG ICCR Suresh K Goel, he says in a  forthright manner “yes you may see elephants on the roads.” Goel points to a quaint paradox “earlier we were defensive about our shortcomings now we feel it is better to say to people, tell us where we’re lacking and we’ll correct it.”

That works well in tandem with the fact India has gone beyond, Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Bhangra and Shehnai vaadans. “Many things which we too earlier perceived as tribal art or not very ‘arty’ are now things we promote,” said old ICCR hand.

Maulana Azad didn’t define culture and a key change in the cultural diplomacy ICCR practises has been encompassing everything and anything relating to India as part of Indian cultural promotions.

So in a ICCR centre abroad, a request from the local population on the then ongoing India – China economic emergence, was met with a lecture by a scholar from that nation.

In Johannesburg, that meant writer Nadine Gordimer and three other South African authors – one who wrote children’s books, one who wrote on social problems and the third a writer of modern prose – came to the ICCR centre and read out their works.

The ICCR’s cultural diplomacy includes setting up centres to promote Indian culture in different countries. “We have about half-a-dozen in the offing, Paris, Washington, Mexico, Toronto…says Singh.”

It also funds about 6000 scholarships each year to bring in students from different nations to India, so that they can be trained in different aspects of Indian arts and culture and go back as ambassadors in their own nation for Brand ICCR.

-HT

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Nawaz sharif

Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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Temple

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