History of ICCR

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One of the aims of India’s freedom struggle was to revive and strengthen the country’s cultural ties with the outside world. This was reflected in the historic Asian Relations Conference held in New Delhi in 1946 wherein it was resolved to set up an Indian Council for Cultural Cooperation to revive and promote closer cultural ties with the other Asian Countries and to project the Indian personality and its rich culture through “Indian eyes”. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations came to be set up some three years later. However, its scope was not confined to the Asian region alone. Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru and   Education Minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (who was the President of ICCR from 1950 till 1958) enlarged its mandate to include the task of forging closer cultural ties with the rest of the wide world. 

The ICCR was established and formally inaugurated in April 1950. Its objectives as defined in the Memorandum of Association included the following: 

  • To establish, revive and strengthen cultural relations and mutual understanding between India and other countries; 
  • To promote cultural exchange with other countries.; 
  • To adopt all other measures as may be required to further its objectives. 

Right from its establishment until 1958, the ICCR was under the administrative jurisdiction of the Education Ministry. This arrangement continued till 22 April, 1970, when the jurisdiction of the Council was transferred to the Ministry of External Affairs following a decision of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Affairs. The proposal for the transfer was initiated in 1967 by Shri M.C. Chagla, following his appointment as the Minister of External Affairs from his earlier charge as the Minister of Education. 

The Ministry of External Affairs assumed administrative and operational control of the Council in 1970-71 with a view to making the Council an effective instrument of India’s foreign policy. In 1978, in keeping with the recommendations of the Asoka Mehta Committee, the Council took over from the Department of Culture all work pertaining to incoming and outgoing cultural delegations and delegated activities relating to implementation of cultural exchange programmes. 

In the initial years, the aims and objectives of the ICCR were two-fold: 

  1. To project Indian culture and heritage on the international cultural map and to present India through Indian eyes so as to correct various distortions about India created by established stereotypes of the colonial era; 
  1. To forge people-to-people contacts with the other countries, particularly the newly emerging nations. 

By and large, the ICCR’s activities have helped in achieving these broad Objectives.