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India-Iran culture pipeline in full flow next week

Gas may take a while to flow between Iran and India through a tri-nation pipeline, but there is no stopping music and ideas that will mingle at a festival here next week, almost coinciding with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's first visit to the country.

Haunting strains of Iranian folk music from Lurestan province and Sistan-Balochestan province and the mellow cadences of Persian poetry will fuse with scholarly debates on the centuries-old ties between India and Iran at the weeklong cultural festival that begins April 30.

Iranian Vice-President Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaei will kick off the festival in the presence of senior Iranian officials and Iranian ambassador to India Seyed Mahdi Nabizadeh, an official of the Iranian embassy told IANS.

The festival will bring together legendary Iranian musicians, dancers, poets, scholars and craftsmen in a celebration of Persian culture and underscore cultural affinities with another ancient civilization, India, which is home to the world's second largest Shia population after Iran.

Photograph exhibitions, handicraft, folk dresses, books and replicas will showcase Persian culture in all its myriad hues.

The civilizational connect between India and Iran spanning nearly 3,000 years will be evident at a conference where leading intellectual and cultural figures of both countries will share notes on deepening cultural ties in the 21st century, the official said.

'India's relations with Iran are deep and multi-faceted and go back centuries. The festival will bring out this sense of connection,' the Iranian official said.

The festival, which also goes to Mumbai, will culminate in an Iranian Night at the Iran Cultural House that promises to be a veritable artistic treat for the senses.

The cultural festival, which nearly coincides with the first visit of the Iranian president to India, will act as a much-needed balm in relations between the two countries that showed signs of drifting after New Delhi twice voted against Tehran's nuclear program over the last three years. Tehran has been accused by Western powers of stealthily developing atomic weapons.

Ahmadinejad's visit, which will be only for a few hours April 29, will be closely watched in Washington that has tried to persuade India to use its equations with Tehran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

India's vote against the Iranian nuclear program at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), first in 2005 and again in 2006, had created some strain in ties, but New Delhi never failed to reiterate its commitment to strengthening relations with Iran.

India has repeatedly supported Iran's right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy under international rules, but has made it clear that it is not in New Delhi's interest to have another nuclear weapon status country in its neighborhood.

Underlining 'close civlizational and economic ties' between the two countries, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan Sunday asked Western powers not to exclude India in the search for a negotiated solution of the Iranian standoff.

'We have capabilities and capacities. We believe that we understand better,' Narayanan said at an international seminar here that was also attended by former U.S. ambassador to India Robert Blackwill.

'Iran is a big country and you need to deal with them diplomatically and with erudition,' he said. Being a neighbor with a large Shia population, 'any mishandling,' Narayanan stressed, will impact negatively on India.

(Source: IANS)

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