'Modern diplomacy is bringing civil society together through music and culture'
In this Idea Exchange, German Ambassador Michael Steiner talks about why Kashmir should be proud of the Zubin Mehta concert, says it was a legitimate diplomatic exercise, explains the reason he hosted Modi and wishes India does not squander its economic chances. The session was moderated by Editor, Express News Service, Pranab Dhal Samanta
Pranab Dhal Samanta: Tell us about the Srinagar concert—you were saying it was quite a nightmare getting it organised through the Indian system. Also about your country, which is having its elections and is the one bright spot in Europe currently. At times, it feels that a lot of responsibilities have been thrust on Germany, more than what Germany wants to take on at times.
This concert was of course a huge logistical undertaking for an embassy. I was under pressure for whether I could guarantee security. I was pretty sure we would have the security, but that was the priority. The world was in a position to see it, because it was shown everywhere. The only critique I have is that you didn't see what really happened at Shalimar Bagh. What really happened was that you had, of course, the VIPs, musicians, officials, but a huge majority of normal Kashmiris sitting on the lawns. Boat owners, shopkeepers and students, even former stone-pelters...
Of course music-wise it was fantastic, especially the Kashmiri song... You think it's five minutes. In reality what happened was that we wanted the Bavarian State Orchestra to present a Kasmiri song together with the Kashmiris. But the problem was all the traditional Kashmiri songs were never put into note, there was never an arrangement, and the musicians did not speak English. They had never heard about the orchestra, and the same was true for the orchestra. So what we did with the help of the Internet and e-mails was that young Sopori (Abhay) trained with 15 musicians in Srinagar, and at the same time in Munich, the Bavarian State Orchestra trained for this one song... So musicians here had to learn to play together with an orchestra that they had never seen and had two days to train, and they did it... 7,000 km apart. It was perfect, just perfect.