Spain and India are now in the 66th year of their diplomatic relations, which were established when the Maharaja of Jaipur, Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II was appointed as the first Ambassador of India to Spain in 1965, and later, in 1956, the Embassy of Spain was established in New Delhi. The relations between Spain and India date back to 1956 when soon after joining the United Nations in 1953, the Embassy of Spain was established and Mrs. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit served as ambassador to Spain from 1958–1961.
Cultural cooperation is not dependent merely on the representatives of states and their heads of government but also on soft power influences such as media representation concerning movies, sports, tourism, migration, and the flow of students.
Indian Cinema in Spain
The Bollywood movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You won’t get another life), which came out in the year 2011, showcased the different cultural aspects distinct to Spain. For example, the Flamenco dance, street salsa, La Tomatina festival, San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona, and Spanish lyrics and tunes in a song are all shot in parts of Spain, viz., Barcelona, Seville, and Costa Brava. Another movie, Dil Dhadakne Do (Let the Heart Beat), was shot on Spain’s biggest cruise operator, Pullmantur. The movie Pathan, scheduled to be released in 2022, stars two of the biggest actors in Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan, and Deepika Padukone, which itself accounts for reaching massive and multiple audiences, and was shot in Mallorca.
While Bollywood is the predominant film industry,there are other successful and mass-followed Indian cinemas filmed in other parts of India in their respective languages, like Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam. Heart Attack, a movie made in 2014 in Telugu, covered scenic shots in Andalusia (the second largest autonomous community in Spain), such as the bullrings in Mijas and Torremolinos in the Province of Malaga, and the town of Fuengirola. Bollywood Awards locations also play a significant role in connecting through the fan following to propagate cultural influence abroad and act as a platform to enhance the exchange of the same.
In commemorating 60 years of diplomatic relations between Spain and India in 2016, efforts were made to build an appeal for Spain as a tourist destination. The official tourism office of Spain, Insituto De Turismo De España – Turespaña was an important stakeholder in the efforts. India provides a diverse and substantial purview for international players to explore and engage with it strategically, economically, and culturally. With keen enthusiasm, both Spain and India have been expressing their willingness to collaborate on the potential of this bilateral cooperation. In this context, planned efforts by the Spanish Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI) culminated in a Global Business Forum during the IIFA weekend in Spain, heralding a new advancement. During the IIFA Weekend in Madrid, the Spain Film Commission and the Film & Television Producers Guild of India signed a cooperation agreement to oversee and accelerate all processes in easy, convenient, and safe filming locations in Spain. Cinema, inadvertently, through its capture of spell-working backdrops of different places, allures tourists. Tourism as an industry has great potential to be impactful on bilateral relations between two nations. Spain is the third most visited country in the world, and tourism is crucial to the Spanish economy, accounting for around 11% of GDP. India’s large and young population is an influential factor in affecting global trade and serves as a lucrative market to diversify Spain’s tourism.
In 2017, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, officially visited Spain on May 30-31. In the meeting with former Spanish President Rajoy, PM Modi stressed on mutual interests in furthering cultural cooperation in the fields of cinema and reinforcement of cultural institutions in both countries. The Canary Islands are home to the largest section of Indian immigrants and diaspora in Spain, and the installation of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was announced, after which a statue of Mahatma Gandhi gifted by ICCR was unveiled by Minister of State Mr. V Muraleedharan in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, in December 2019. This was the first official visit by any Indian minister to the Canary Islands. The 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was celebrated in a grand manner in Spain in 2019 with activities including Vaishnava Jana to rendition by Spanish artists, contributions to the Mahatma Gandhi Anthology by former Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Queen Mother Sofia, the release of a commemorative stamp by the Spanish Philately Commission, cycling for peace, planting of trees on World Environment Day, a summer course on Mahatma Gandhi titled “Gandhi’s India and Today’s India” at Complutense University, an audio-visual exhibition-My Life is my Message in various Spanish cities and the unveiling of the Head of the Giant painting on Gandhiji by Cristobal Gabarron, one of Spain’s greatest living mixed-media artist, in October 2020.
Over the years, there has been a surge in interest in learning the Spanish language by young graduates in India, implying a rise in Spanish outreach. The arts and intelligentsia circles already had exposure to the works of Salvadore Dali and Pablo Picasso, and the advent of globalization and soft power exchanges between cultures through Spanish cinema and OTT platforms have further popularized Spanish culture in India. Since the commemoration of the 60th year of diplomatic relations between geographically distant and culturally aligned Spain and India, efforts have been planned and extended by governments, private stakeholders, and civil society to harness the potential that the two countries provide through bilateral exchanges through cultural cooperation.