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Traditional cultures must be made relevant: India

SHANGHAI, OCT. 15. India today urged the international community to take urgent steps to make traditional cultures relevant, creatively integrate them into the mainstream and not merely focus on how to protect them in an era of unprecedented globalisation.

"The key question to be asked is not how to protect traditional cultures, but how to make them relevant," the Union Minister for Culture and Information and Broadcasting, S. Jaipal Reddy, said here. He was making an intervention at the Session on Traditional Cultures and Modernisation at the Seventh Annual Ministerial Meeting of the International Network on Culture Policy (INCP).

"We cannot keep our traditional cultures as museum pieces. They are living cultures, which have defined the lives of generations. Suddenly they find that their skills, values and heritage have no relevance," Mr. Reddy said.

"As policymakers, it is our challenge to rediscover their continued relevance, utility and value in social cohesion and economic development. They have to be integrated into economic mainstream without losing their cultural identity," he said.

The abiding wisdom in traditional cultures needed to be harnessed and integrated with the intellectual mainstream and used for the welfare of society. "At the same time, it has to be ensured that they are not exploited, nor their intellectual property rights abused."

Not a new conflict

Mr. Reddy, who is heading the Indian delegation at the three-day meeting, noted that the conflict between tradition and modernisation was not new. "Socio-economic changes always encountered this conflict. During the industrial revolution this was a major concern. History has witnessed several such crises when change and tradition had to be reconciled," he said.

Indian experience

Mr. Reddy spoke of India's experience in protecting and promoting traditional cultures and making them relevant in today's fast-changing world. India had innumerable tribal and rural communities, which had their own cultural values and traditional knowledge systems, he said.

Inspired by the UNESCO Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage, India had formulated a national mission to safeguard oral and intangible cultural heritage, Mr. Reddy said. "This will help us document the diverse expressions of intangible culture of the people in villages and remote areas," he said.

Some 22 Cultural Ministers from 36 countries, and seven representatives from seven international organisations such as UNESCO and WTO are attending the meeting. It is co-sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and the Shanghai Government.

Founded in June 1998 in Ottawa, Canada, the INCP is an informal, international forum where national ministers responsible for culture can explore and exchange views on new and emerging cultural policy issues and to develop strategies to promote cultural diversity. — PTI

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