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BRICS countries share deep cultural bonds: Meenakshi Lekhi

Johannesburg: Culture is a very important factor in the BRICS bloc and the five countries comprising the grouping are deeply connected in terms of values, India’s culture minister Meenakshi Lekhi has said.

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Lekhi, the Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture, met culture ministers of BRICS countries in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa on Friday ahead of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg next month.

“Pleased to participate in the 8th BRICS Culture Ministers’ Meeting today in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Signed the Declaration of 8th Culture Ministers’ Meeting which will facilitate robust cultural exchange amongst BRICS countries,” she tweeted.

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“Spoke on the ancient cultural linkages between the BRICS countries and how India is positioning culture at the heart of global policy making through our G20 Presidency and the need to digitise valuable collections for promoting exchange of cultural knowledge,” she said.

Addressing a community meeting of local and expatriate Indians at the offices of the Consul General of India on Saturday evening, Lekhi shared some of the ideas she exchanged with her counterparts from India’s partners in BRICS – Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa.

The ministers discussed the importance of cultural diplomacy and the potential of cultural industries in driving economic revival and fostering social cohesion in a post-pandemic world.

One of the outcomes of a meeting was the culture ministers from the BRICS bloc agreed on the restitution of properties which have been taken out of their countries of origin by the erstwhile colonial powers.

“We also discussed the need for a rights-based approach to indigenous communities who have every right to preserve and protect their own culture,” Lekhi said.

“Sustainability as part of culture and digitization of cultural heritage, whether in museums, UNESCO sites, libraries at various places across the globe and not in India is important. At least give us a digitized copy so that we can have references to them,” she said.

“Culture is a very important factor when it comes to BRICS countries. These five countries are very deeply connected in terms of culture and values,” she said.

South Africa and India share not just a language, but a history of “our struggles and our value systems” the minister added.

Lekhi said that as BRICS discussions progressed, it became very clear that the people of BRICS countries wanted to communicate culturally through filmmaking, dialogues, music, dance and language.

“The sustainability of the environment through a sustainable culture of using natural materials in handicrafts also came under the spotlight. If we ingratiate ourselves in responsible consumption, it becomes a cultural responsibility,” she said.

Lekhi said that at the G20 Summit, the culture component has been pushed by India very seriously and it would continue doing this at other international forums, including BRICS.

“On several fronts, we see commonalities here too in BRICS countries,” she said.

After sharing insights on their respective nations’ experiences in navigating the challenges posed by the Covid-109 pandemic and other issues, the ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation in the Field of Culture.

This agreement will serve as a foundation for future collaboration and is expected to provide a framework for joint initiatives, including cultural exchanges, capacity building, and creative collaborations.

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