In a world where border walls are becoming the norm and doors are being shut to keep ‘the others’ out, the ASEAN-India music festival is aiming to do just the opposite – making borders translucent, even irrelevant with the power of music and free flow of ideas.
The first ever edition of the unique festival being organised by India’s Ministry of External Affairs, in collaboration with Ministry of Culture and Seher, an NGO, aims to initiate a new musical dialogue to celebrate cultural diversity and foster a spirit of collaboration and ever-more connectedness between India and 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The three-day festival (Oct 6-8), to be held in New Delhi’s iconic 16th century fortress Purana Qila, is part of a series of special events being organised to commemorate 25 historic years of India’s dialogue partnership with the ASEAN, themed around ‘Shared Values, Common Destiny’.
The musical show will feature a unique roster of emerging and established musicians and bands spanning diverse genres from India and all the ten ASEAN countries. The Ugly Band (Myanmar), Cherpen (Malaysia), Tim De Cotta (Singapore), Kong Southearith (Cambodia), Red Bamboo (Vietnam), L’alphalpha (Indonesia), Nam Fon Indee (Lao PDR), A Band Once (Brunei Darussalam), Asia7 (Thailand) and The Ransom Collective (Philippines) will be presenting an eclectic array of music infused with distinct cultural influences of the Southeast Asian countries, while the Indian side will be represented by the Raghu Dixit Project, Avial, Papon LIVE, Bipul Chettri and the Travelling Band and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.
With the commemoration of an important milestone in the India-ASEAN ties, India is looking at strengthening its engagements with the dynamic Southeast Asian bloc, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. At the recently concluded ninth edition of the Delhi Dialogue, aptly themed ‘Charting the Course for India – ASEAN Relations for the Next 25 Years’, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj underlined that India places a special emphasis to its relations with ASEAN. “We place ASEAN at the heart of our ‘Act East Policy’ and at the centre of our dream of an Asian century… Our region is witnessing unparalleled dynamism in political, security, economic and demographic terms. This brings immense opportunities for India and ASEAN member countries.”
India and ASEAN account for almost a quarter of the world population (1.85 billion) and a combined GDP of $ 3.8 trillion, which makes it one of the largest and most successful trans-regional partnership in the world. India became a full dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1996, four years after it started engaging with the group as a sectoral partner. Thereafter India has engaged extensively with various ASEAN-driven bodies like ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF).
Stronger partnership with ASEAN is crucial for India to meet its geostrategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region and to moderate the Chinese assertiveness. But it will have to step up its game to be seen as an important player in the region. Developing a comprehensive long-term strategy, drawing on shared strong historical, maritime and cultural connections, could be a good beginning to infuse new vigour in the burgeoning India-ASEAN partnership.
(Soumya Nair contributed inputs for this article)
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