[INTERVIEW] India to mark Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary on Oct. 2


Indian Ambassador to Korea Sripriya Ranganathan speaks during a recent interview with The Korea Times at the embassy in Hannam-dong, Seoul. / Korea Times photo by Choi Won-suk

Message of non-violence appeals to Koreans as two Koreas grow closerBy Yi Whan-woo

Mahatma Gandhi is revered for practicing his message of non-violence, even when armed resistance seemed the only viable option.

In celebration of Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary on Oct. 2, India will host a special yearlong campaign worldwide to better share his spirit.

And his message can be especially compelling for Koreans in the wake of the third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to Indian Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Sripriya Ranganathan.

“The teachings of Mahatma remain relevant, remain universal, and remain very down to earth,” she said during a recent interview with The Korea Times.

“His message was about communal harmony between nations and between peoples of all regions, religions and communities. This is a message that we in India see as remaining very true and fundamental for everyone, everywhere.”

“And I would say it also remains very true for Korea as you seek to bring about complete and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and enable the people on both sides of the border to meet with each other to use culture as a means of taking forward political ties.

“I think these are things which are in line with the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.”

The Indian Embassy will kickstart its yearlong celebration by organizing a speicial event at Swami Vivekananda Culture Centre on Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. in presence of serveral Korean dignitaries. Ambassador for Public Diplomacy Bahk Sahng-hoon will be the chief guest for the event.

The event will comprise of remarks on Gandhi’s message and its relevance, promotional videos of Gandhi’s teachings and a rendition of famous Gandhi bhajan “Vaishnav Jan To” by Lee Eun-hye, a renowed pansori singer from National Gugak Center in Busan.

The Embassy of India will also release a commemorative stamp on Gandhi, show video footage of Gandhi on outdoor advertising screens in Seoul — including Gwanghwamun, Myeong-dong, and Gangnam.

Among other planned events are cultural programs at universities and schools, seminars, quizzes, debates and film screenings across Korea until October 2019..

“There is a set of exciting events that we have in mind to mark this year,” Ranganathan said.

This will be the embassy’s biggest since Ambassador Ranganathan, a career diplomat, took office on Aug. 8.

Her arrival in Seoul came after President Moon’s state visit to India from July 8 to 11, during which he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed to bolster their strategic partnership.

The envoy said the partnership would be a “comprehensive and concrete framework” for the relationship.

She stressed that her role is to help Korea and India to realize the goals set by their leaders; including Moon’s New Southern Policy and Modi’s Act East Policy.

The New Southern Policy seeks more cooperation and exchanges with Southeast Asia and India while the Act East Policy focuses on improving India’s relations with Southeast Asian countries as well as East Asian nations.

“So far we have been strongly focused on Myanmar and Thailand,” she said.

“But with the coming of the New Southern Policy, it would be absolutely possible and desirable for us to take the next logical step of focusing also on countries such as Korea.”

Moon and Modi acknowledged the need to facilitate trade by speeding up their revision of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which took effect in 2010.

To spearhead growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Moon and Modi agreed to set up the Korea-India Future Strategy Group, in which the two nations’ governments and private sectors will cooperate in artificial intelligence, electric vehicles, energy and health care.

The India-Korea Center for Research and Innovation Cooperation will also be established in New Delhi with an aim to expand ongoing cooperation in science and techology.

Ministers of the two countries in charge of trade, industry, science, foreign affairs and culture signed four memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on a variety of cooperative moves, with the two leaders attending the signing ceremony. Several other state-run organizations and local governments also signed seven more MOUs.

“There is a lot of work happening in both Korea and India (after Moon’s visit to India) … There has been a series of delegations which have come to take the relations to the next level,” she said.

For the military cooperation, the first staff talks between the two countries’ navies have begun.

Commemorating thousands of years of historic ties between Korea and India, the two countries will seek to remodel and expand a memorial park for Queen Heo, the wife of Suro of Geumgwan Gaya, who is believed to have come from the ancient Indian kingdom of Ayuta.

The park was set up in 2001 in Uttar Pradesh (UP), a northern Indian province.

“We’re hopeful that work will start on the memorial,” she said. “I believe the government of UP is in touch with the Korean authorities on what should be the shape of the memorial. So we should see some progress on that.”

The Visa on Arrival facility for Koreans from Oct. 1 was another agreement reached during Moon’s visit to India, making Korea the only second country after Japan to enjoy such a benefit. “I hope very much people who are planning to come to India for business, tourism and social visits will take advantage of this special facility,” she said.


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