ASEAN-India: Youth and Socio-Cultural Connectivity

Young individuals are one of the foremost assets in India and Southeast Asia because they symbolise the potential for the future. The role of Youth in Nation-building process becomes even much more important in 21st Century when India and Southeast Asia are positioning themselves internationally as innovative, creative, inventive and disruptive economies, with an outward looking market-based approach along with philosophical principles of inclusiveness, admiration and respect for diversity and willingness to change for the better. In a time of constantly developing technological machineries and rapidly transforming economic, social as well as political realities, young generation in India and Southeast Asia is among the most advanced as compared to any developing region or country so as to help in contributing for the innovative solutions to solve issues or problems in future that humanity is facing in 21st century. In today’s time, societies in India and Southeast Asia need the contribution of young and dynamic minds in the form of transformative ideas, passionate enthusiasm and a forward-looking vision to resolving problems and challenges in today’s era.

India’s ties with countries in Southeast Asia has a strong foundation of cultural linkages and civilisational ties which is noticeable in the cultural resemblances in many aspects and it has been the bedrock for building the platform for the new emerging areas of cooperation. As stated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of his speeches, the ancient Indian epic Ramayana remains a shared cultural heritage between India and Southeast Asia, along with the unique links established by Buddhism and Islam which has travelled from India to Southeast Asian countries through many centuries. Today, the Socio-cultural connectivity includes cooperation between India and ASEAN in terms of people-to-people exchanges, development of human resources, science and technology, education, health, small and medium enterprises, tourism, information & communication technology and climate change etc.

India and ASEAN have been actively involved in various capacity building projects for Youths. The Indian diaspora in Southeast Asian countries has also played a very important role in cementing the youth and socio-cultural connectivity between India and Southeast Asia. These inter-cultural linkages need to be highlighted further because such links are critical in connecting the similarities of culture and bridging the diversity of culture between India and ASEAN. Spiritual tourism offers enormous opportunity to build socio-cultural connectivity between India and Southeast Asia. Buddhist Tourist Circuit which connects Bodhgaya and Rajgir in the state of Bihar, Kushinagar, Sarnath and Shravasti in the state of Uttar Pradesh and Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh has the potential to become a hallmark of connectivity through spiritual tourism promoting socio-cultural connectivity among the people of India and Southeast Asia.

The young generation of today’s time will certainly get an opportunity to play a leading role in their respective countries, either at political or in different capacities, but the youth will be the future. Therefore, nurturing youth cooperation between India and Southeast Asia will naturally lead to better gains in the longer run for the entire region because India and Southeast Asia stand on the edge of entering into a new era of development and cooperation, the vital key to which lies in the mutual partnership among their youth population. If the potential of young generation is harnessed and channelised in a structured way, then the youth can help ushering in a brighter future.

To promote greater awareness and appreciation of traditions, heritage and cultures of India and Southeast Asia in each other’s country, including through organising cultural & cuisine festivals and discuss & exchange experiences on preserving traditional cultural values, India Foundation in collaboration with Ministry of External Affairs, Govt of India, initiated a platform of ASEAN-India Youth Summit. This platform brings the young minds from India and ASEAN together, to promote youth exchanges in order to enable them to harness the significant contribution which young people can make in their respective countries. The platform of Youth Summit is also helpful in exchanging and sharing experiences among ASEAN member states and India on various issues related to youth and socio-cultural connectivity and also for identifying future areas of co-operation. With socio-cultural linkages as the foundation, India Foundation’s 2nd ASEAN-India Youth Summit will have deliberations on “Youth and Socio-cultural Connectivity,” so as to evolve a partnership among youth for progress and prosperity.

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