Conference “India-Russia in the 21st Century”
in New Delhi
On the eve of the 19th Indo-Russian Summit, on September 13-14, 2018, a conference “India-Russia in the 21st Century: Enhancing the Special Privileged Strategic Partnership” was held in New Delhi. It was jointly organized by the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, Russian International Affairs Council, and the Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of India and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, which hosted the event.
The chief guests of the conference were H.E. Mr. Anatoly V. Kargapolov, Charge d’Affaires of the Russian Federation in the Republic of India, Gleb Ivashentsov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation, Vice President, Russian International Affairs Council; Dr. Bibek Debroy, Chairman, Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister of India; Prof. Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India; Dr. Anirban Ganguli, Director, Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, and other outstanding representatives of political, economic and cultural-educational circles.
The conference discussed various aspects of Russian-Indian relations and the role of cultural exchange and public diplomacy. The speakers explored such topics as the prospects of the strategic partnership between the two countries and their cooperation in technology, their strategic relations in the Arctic and Indo-Pacific, the future of the North-South Transport Corridor, the India-Russia cooperation in Eurasian Space, the role of culture and media in shaping the perceptions of India in Russia, the challenges and prospects of Indian studies in Russia and Russian studies in India, etc.
The conference also explored the role of people-to-people contacts and cultural relations in the overall process of the development of India-Russia partnership. In this context, of special importance is the heritage of the great Russian family of the Roerichs, and, first and foremost, their estate in Naggar, in the Himalayan Kullu valley, which has become a veritable center of Russian-Indian friendship. The paper presented by Mrs. Larisa Surgina serving as Russian Curator in the International Roerich Memorial Trust, Naggar, Distt. Kullu, on deputation from the International Centre of the Roerichs, Moscow, explored the contribution of the Roerichs – the illustrious Russian family of artists, thinkers, scholars and explorers – to the strengthening of Russia-India cultural relations.
In her paper titled “The Significance of the Roerich Heritage for the Strengthening of Russia-India Relations” Mrs. Surgina dwelled in considerable detail on the diverse activities of the Roerichs in the Kullu valley: creation of hundreds of canvases, foundation of ‘Urusvati’ Himalayan Research Institute, drafting of the first international treaty for the protection of historic monuments known as the Roerich Pact, and development of the unique philosophical system of the Living Ethics (Agni Yoga). She noted that already in the time of the Roerichs their Himalayan estate became the center interaction with Indian public figures, and men of science and art such as Rabindranath Tagore, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and many others.
All the Roerichs loved India, and had a profound knowledge and understanding of its culture. India also entered the life of the youngest Roerich, Svetoslav Roerich, in the shape of his wife, muse and associate Devika Rani, the grandniece of Rabindranath Tagore and “The First Lady of Indian Cinema.” One can say that due to Devika Rani the Roerichs have become even closer to the people of India. This way, due to genuine human connections people mingle and cultures penetrate each other.
In 1947, Nicholas Roerich passed away. He was cremated in the Kullu valley, slightly below the Roerich House according to the Indian tradition. 45 years later, in 1992, Svetoslav Roerich together with his spouse Devika Rani created a non-governmental organization International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT) for the preservation of the Roerichs’ heritage in the Kullu valley. Three years earlier Svetoslav Roerich created a non-governmental organization International Centre of the Roerichs (ICR) in Moscow. Alexander Kadakin, the future Russian ambassador to India became Svetoslav Roerich’s representative in India, while the Indologist, writer and explorer Lyudmila Shaposhnikova became his representative in Moscow. They entered the IRMT as trustees from the Russian side. In accordance with the will of Svetoslav Roerich, IRMT and ICR are supposed to cooperate in strengthening the friendship and cultural relations between Russia and India. According to his will, the representative of Indian government was appointed President of the IRMT, and the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to India its Vice President. Thus started the joint Indo-Russian effort for the preservation of Roerich heritage in Kullu – the effort that has been continuing to date.
At present, the International Roerich Memorial Trust in Naggar conducts the following activities: museum work with the Roerich heritage and development of the museum complex, cultural-educational activities and work with children, research work and gradual revival of ‘Urusvati’ Himalayan Research Institute. Annually, more than 100,000 visitors learn more about the life and work of this remarkable family which embodied the underlying unity of Russia and India.
Thus, the joint effort for the preservation of Roerich heritage in Kullu helps strengthen friendship and cooperation between Russia and India, and will continue to do so.
In 1942, the estate was visited by two future prime ministers of independent India: Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi. Through this interaction the ancient ties between India and Russia were being strengthened, the new bridge of friendship was being erected and the cooperation between the two countries developed.