Former President Megawati Soekarnoputri, right, praises the historic friendship between Indonesia and India which, in the words of Ambassador Gurjit Singh draws on a civilizational bond, during India’s Republic Day festivities on Jan. 26, 2015. (BeritaSatu Photo/Gugun A. Suminarto)

Festival Celebrates All Things India in Indonesia

BY :RABAB HANNAN

JANUARY 27, 2015

Jakarta. Former President Megawati Soekarnoputri presided over the launch of Sahabat India 2015 at South Jakarta's Taman Ismail Marzuki concert hall on Monday night, kicking off a three-month-long festival celebrating all things India in venues across Indonesia.

"It is my great honor to attend tonight's event: The Indonesia-India Festival," Megawati said told the hundreds in attendance. "This festival not only reflects on the long historical relationship between our two nations, but also further strengthen our cultural cooperation, which has been a strong link tying the friendship between our two nations and their people."

Also in attendance were Trade Minister Rahmat Gobel and a number of ambassadors in Jakarta.

The festival's launch was celebrated with performance by Grammy Award-winner Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, whose masterful rendition of melodious Hindustani ragas on the mohan veena (for those unfamiliar with its sound, think of a modified Hawaiian guitar), interspersed with explanations of the many ways a slide guitar is played in India, enraptured audiences throughout the night.

Indian Ambassador to Indonesia and Timor Leste Gurjit Singh greeted guests at the festival's opener.

"India and Indonesia have stood shoulder-to-shoulder, and perhaps 2014 was no better time to recall how similar we were," Singh said. "We both held elections. We both listened and heeded the aspirations and hopes of our people. We both realized that we were [witnessing] the youth revolution happening in our countries."

Monday's festivities marked India's 66th celebration of Republic Day, an occasion Singh took to emphasize the growing relationship between India and Indonesia.

Gobel also underscored the night's importance to Indonesian-Indian ties.

"Indonesia and India have enjoyed a long and fruitful bilateral relationship for 65 years," Gobel said. "The bilateral relations is strengthened because of the establishment of a strategic partnership based on mutual trust and benefit."

"India holds Indonesia in immense esteem, and today when we launch Sahabat India, it is a humble tribute from India to its steadfast friend: Indonesia," Singh said. The ambassador added that Sahabat India will visit 16 cities, including Jakarta.

"This is the most ambitious and deep use of our cultural influences which we are trying to revive in Indonesia."

Sahabat India is part of a broader effort to forge unity between the two nations by linking youth, culture and people-to-people cooperation, according to Singh.

Other Sahabat India programming over the next few months will include Indian folk dances, Bollywood film exhibitions, and food and entertainment events.

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