Guyanese benefited from ICCR’s programmes

Dear Editor,
The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) commemorated its 75th year of existence with a seminar organized virtually (online) in Guyana. The organization was founded on April 9, 1950 to promote cultural exchanges with other countries and people, and to improve relations with nations through the medium of culture. Its influence has since grown globally.
The Swami Vivekanand Centers in Guyana and other countries in the region have made important contributions to the country. I and many other Indians, as well as non-Indians, greatly appreciate all the support provided by India to our region. Indians take great pride in being blessed with a culture handed down by their ancestors who came to these shores in 1838.
Indian values are universal. From ancient times, India has been a centre of higher learning, as it is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. India has been known for its tremendous cultural influence around the globe for thousands of years, and even more so with a direct presence of Indians globally: in Reunion Island since 1828, Mauritius in 1834, Guyana in 1838, and elsewhere in subsequent years, transplanting their culture.
In recent decades, with the migration of Indians, their cultural practices have been institutionalised in different parts of the UK, USA, Canada and other Western societies. Some scholars describe India as having been a beacon of light for the West for centuries. As others pointed out, the richness of India’s culture is manifested in traditions, practices, languages, faiths, and rituals.
Though invaded and oppressed by foreigners and through colonial rule for centuries, the people of India still hold on to their rich culture and heritage. To promote and share this rich culture, ICCR was established. Its mission is to help foster and strengthen cultural and other relations, and mutual understanding between India and other countries.
ICCR was founded as an autonomous (self-governing) organization of the Government of India with funding from the central Government. It has been involved in India’s ‘soft power’ diplomacy, promoting India’s global cultural relations through cultural exchanges with the government and people of other countries.
ICCR seeks to encourage mutual understanding between India and people of other nations and cultures. ICCR has centres in some two dozen countries, including Guyana, Trinidad, Suriname, and Jamaica, and also sends teams of cultural promoters to countries where there are no centres. The cultural centres were recently renamed Swami Vivekanand cultural centres. The centres provide a platform to promote Indian art, theatre, instrumental and vocal music of the genres and folk-art forms to audiences abroad. They disseminate information and engage in activities relating to India’s heritage, values, and philosophy. These centres and ICCR’s other programmes create an endearing image of India’s soft power overseas.
Besides being involved in cultural promotions, ICCR has been administering scholarship programmes of the Government of India to foreigners. Programmes have provided social and economic development abroad through technical assistance, and have created mutual understanding between Indians and the populations served.
Some 5,000 foreign students from 140 countries were beneficiaries (with diploma and degrees thru the PhD) under this scheme in varied fields of endeavour.
Guyanese and other West Indians took advantage of opportunities for study offered by ICCR. Hundreds of Guyanese were/are beneficiaries of the programme, studying dance, music, singing, Hindi, acting, yoga, and other subjects. ICCR-sponsored programmes have helped to change the lives of tens of millions of people in the world for better, promoting social and economic development through technical assistance. ICCR has thus helped to lift the human condition in many countries.
The principal goals of ICCR have been to foster harmony among people of Indian origin and non-Indians; encourage interactions between the people of India and other countries; and project Indian distinct cultural identity all over the world. To achieve its goal, ICCR hosts seminars, conferences, workshops, concerts, and lessons in yoga, music, and dancing, among other activities, abroad and at its centres in India.
In order to promote India, to make foreigners understand and appreciate Indian culture, cross-cultural ties are strengthened. The staff of ICCR in Guyana work closely with the Guyanese. Several Guyanese volunteers with the organization in order to build support and trust. They are deeply honoured to serve as volunteers. They recognize that the organization has helped to promote a better understanding of India among Guyanese of all races, and of Guyanese on the part of Indian nationals.
ICCR has been very kind and generous to Guyana and Guyanese. Many beneficiaries of ICCR’s programmes have been Guyanese. Recipients of grants and scholarships appreciate very much India’s generosity. It is hoped that the effect of the organization’s many programmes and scholarships would reverberate in stronger diplomatic, strategic, and economic relations.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram