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PM to get taste of India fever in Germany

Manmohan will hold talks with German Chancellor on wide-ranging issues including civilian nuclear cooperation.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2006 11:36 IST

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes to Germany on a four-day state visit this week, he will find Europe's industrial titan keen to engage with an increasingly confident India and getting attracted to its films, fashion and literature as never before.

Two major events this year in Germany -- the Hanover Trade Fair (April 24-28) and the Frankfurt Book Fair (October 4-8) -- have India as their theme song.

"It is the India year in Germany," Michael Haspers, the press counsellor at the German embassy, said.

Manmohan will arrive in Germany on April 22 and will visit Hanover and Berlin.

He will hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on a wide-ranging issues including civilian nuclear cooperation.

He will halt in Uzbekistan on his way home. He is expected to return on April 27.

The Hanover Fair, called 'Hannover Messe' in German -- the world's biggest trade and technology jamboree -- has India as the partner country with over 10,000 square metres of hall space given to it at the fair grounds.

The spotlight on India's rising economic muscle and technological prowess will only turn brighter when Manmohan Singh inaugurates the fair with Merkel on April 24.

At the trade fair, around 300 exhibitors representing the elite of Indian industry such as Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra, Godrej and Boyce, Thermax and Kirloskar Oil Engines Ltd will showcase their products and expertise to international buyers and partners.

India-Germany trade forecasts are upbeat -- bilateral trade is expected to exceed $10 billion by the end of next year.

If the Hanover Fair will showcase India's economic vitality renewed by market reforms, the Frankfurt Book Fair, where India will be the "guest of honour", will display its intellectual vigour and the increasingly global reach of its soft power.

The Frankfurt fair will display "Today's India" -- the motto for the fair -- in all its dazzling diversity through a large number of readings, music, dance and theatre events, film features and exhibitions to be hosted across Germany.

The literary fever has already kicked off with readings at Leipzig Book Fair last month by 12 top-billed Indian authors, including Bengali poet Sunil Gangopadhyaya and popular writer Shobha De.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair, contemporary literary icons like Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Mahasweta Devi and Javed Akhtar will read out from their works.

There is a fresh burst of enthusiasm in Germany for both contemporary and older Indian writers which shows in the demand for their works in translations.

Suhrkamp -- one of the biggest German publishing conglomerates -- plans to bring out many Indian authors in German translations.

"It is not uncommon to hear Bollywood numbers in German discos. The telecast of Shah Rukh Khan films on prime time TV has made Bollywood films very popular," says RK Jain, an expert on European affairs at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

"It's not just films but Indian cuisine is also becoming very popular," said Jain, who travels frequently to Germany.

"There is a huge potential waiting to be tapped in this as well as other areas of India-Germany ties," said Kishan Rana, a former Indian envoy to Germany. "Indian textiles and fashion are also finding more takers."

Renowned Indian director Shyam Benegal's film "Netaji: The Last Hero" was shot in Germany, which is trying to follow Switzerland's lead and sell itself as the preferred destination for Bollywood film producers in search of exotic locales.

Bollywood magic has also infiltrated into high style and fashion.

In Heidelberg, fitness instructor Alexandra has launched a unique course called "Bollywood Workout" that blends elements of Bollywood dance, bhangra and aerobics.

It is not as though Germany has discovered India recently. Germans have always been interested in India's soft power dating back to Indologist Max Mueller's pioneering monographs in the 19th century.

Cultural and literary encounters go back further in time.

Cross-cultural encounters have led to amazing results-for instance, the first grammar of Malayalam was written by a German scholar, Hermann Gundert, in the 19th century.

First Published: Apr 16, 2006 11:36 IST