India is reaching out to artists, filmmakers and intellectuals in the Gulf countries in an effort to bridge the cultural gap, which has emerged despite booming trade and a vibrant political relationship with the region.

“We used to have people-to-people connectivity with the Gulf for several centuries, but the intense cultural ties of the past are not as robust today. We, therefore, felt the need to re-engage local communities in the cultural arena with considerable focus and deliberate intent,” India’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Talmiz Ahmad told journalists on Monday.

Works of 81 distinguished artists and sculptors from India will be showcased during the fortnight-long Spectrum — an exhibition of modern and contemporary art, being held here from November 12.

Contemporary works of young painters such as Subodh Gupta will be exhibited along with some of M.F. Hussain masterpieces, Mr. Ahmad said, referring to the iconic nonagenarian painter who lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai. During the course of the exhibition, Indian artists will interact with their Arab counterparts.

Mr. Ahmad said Abu Dhabi was an appropriate venue for the exhibition as the UAE capital would soon have a branch of the Louvre and the Guggenheim museums, as it established itself as a major cultural hub in the Gulf and West Asia.

The Indian embassy is jointly hosting the exhibition with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage (ADACH).

The paintings on show will exhibit a variety of themes. “There is a ruthlessness with which some of the artists depict modern-day problems pertaining to social and economic inequity and gender discrimination. It stems from a sense of youthful self-confidence that is visible in modern India,” Mr. Ahmad said.

In November 2008, a festival of award-winning Indian films had been organised in the UAE capital. A joint project to translate 15 modern Indian books into Arabic, which include Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and the former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s, Wings of Fire, has begun to show results. Indian scholars have already translated eight of these books, which will compete for attention at the upcoming Abu Dhabi book fair.

The ambassador said the exhibition is part of a series of events to familiarise the UAE residents with the latest trends on the Indian cultural horizon.

As Abu Dhabi feverishly prepares for the mega-event, neighbouring Kuwait is already leveraging some of India’s “soft-power” attributes.

More than 100 extremely talented Indian artistes and artisans have assembled in the oil-rich nation to participate in a week-long festival of India in Kuwait. Apart from performing arts, an exhibition of Arabic calligraphy and Indian Muslim religious posters and calendar art, brought specially from Hyderabad’s Salar Jung Museum are on show.

The festival, one of the largest ever organised in Kuwait, amply demonstrates that “over the centuries every community had found a place in the Indian crucible,” India’s ambassador to Kuwait Ajai Malhotra said. An exhibition of Indian woven textiles is also on display, along with textiles, folk art exhibits and photographs, illustrating the theme, Mumbai through the ages.

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