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India’s cultural centre in Toronto to rival London’s Add to ...

India is planning a big cultural centre in Toronto along the lines of the famous Nehru Centre in London – the first of its kind in North America.

The London centre – named after India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru – is the country’s biggest cultural outlet in the world, partly because of its historic relationship with Britain and the presence of a huge Indian diaspora there.

“[Toronto’s centre] will rival, if not outshine, the Nehru Centre in London,’’ said a top official of the Indian ministry of external affairs, who was in Toronto to participate in last week’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas – a gathering of people of Indian origin in North America and the Caribbean.

“The new cultural centre will be ready by next year to cater to the North America Indian diaspora,’’ said Sangeeta Bahadur, deputy director at the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, an autonomous wing of the ministry. It also runs cultural centres in Almaty (Kazakhstan), Berlin, Cairo, Colombo, Durban, Georgetown, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Moscow, Paramaribo (Suriname), Port Louis (Mauritius), Port of Spain and Tashkent (Uzbekistan), besides London .

“We are looking for a suitable location in Toronto and once we find it, the centre will come up quickly,’’ Ms. Bahadur said. “The proposed centre will showcase India’s rich old heritage and traditions to the Indian diaspora and mainstream Canadians. It will regularly host Indian dance and music performances.’’

She said the centre is part of India’s thrust to use culture as a tool of its foreign policy. “We want to use our rich cultural heritage to build bridges with the diaspora and Canada and the whole North American region. The Indian diaspora is our biggest asset and we want to use this asset to project India.’’

Ms. Bahadur said Washington was also considered for the proposed cultural, but Toronto won out for various reasons. “Toronto offers us many advantages, including its huge Indian population.’’

The Indian diaspora in Canada is about one million strong, including second- and third-generation Indo-Canadians, as well as those of Indian origin from East Africa and the Caribbean. Its per-capita concentration is several times greater than in the United States.

Ms. Bahadur said cultural diplomacy has and will continue to strengthen ties with Canada.

“India’s soft power, including Bollywood, has created a big impact in Canada and the cultural centre in Toronto will fit in with these trends.’’

She said the centre will focus on the second and third generation Indo-Canadians eager to connect with their ancestral roots.

The cultural centre will have “a substantial annual budget,’’ she added, without elaborating.

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