NEW DELHI: Indian scholars welcomed on Sunday initiatives to preserve historical relations between India and the Arab world, after representatives of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Foundation held seminars on Arabic heritage in India as part of the New Delhi World Book Fair.

The Kingdom was the guest of honor at India’s second-oldest book fair, which this year ran from Feb. 10 to 18 at the Pragati Maidan convention center in the Indian capital and was attended by 2,000 exhibitors from around the world.

The Saudi exhibition showcased books, manuscripts, calligraphy, traditional musical instruments and handicrafts at the festival, while officials and scholars from the Kingdom took part in seminars to discuss India’s historical and cultural ties with the Arab world with their Indian counterparts.

They were organized by the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, which has forged over the years several links with Indian organizations to promote Arabic language and heritage.

“We have signed MoUs (memorandums of understanding) with many Indian institutions and foundations for collaboration … This country (India) has done many things to promote Arabic heritage. These efforts are spread all over Indian villages and cities. We want to preserve these relations,” the foundation’s CEO, Turki Al-Shuwaier, said during a seminar on Saturday.

In September, the foundation signed a preliminary agreement with the National Archives of India to strengthen research cooperation, including by facilitating researchers from the two countries to conduct their studies and to exchange archival expertise.

Indian scholars who took part in the discussions, which had focused on the contributions of Indian foundations and scholars to Arabic heritage, said such events were important.

“Seminars like these are important to reassert our historical linkages and tell the audience how deep-rooted the connection between India and the Arab world is,” Prof. Habibullah Khan from the Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi told Arab News on Sunday.

“Arabic language is not new to India; it came with Muslims and even before Muslims 2,000 years ago. We had commercial ties with the Arab world dating back before Islam …  After (Indian) independence, Arabic started to be taught in 53 universities across India. They have been producing great research enriching the Arabic language, history, heritage, and literature.”

Prof. Nasim Akhtar, also from the Jamia Millia Islamia university, recounted the various connections between India and the Arab world.

“The books written in Arabic in India on Islamic jurisprudence or other aspects are very popular in the Arab world. India also contributed a lot in the field of Arabic poetry. In the field of linguistics, too, India played a great role in the evolution of the Arabic language,” Akhtar told Arab News.

Many important Arabic manuscripts can be found in libraries throughout India, he said, including the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad and the Maulana Azad Library in Aligarh, which is known as one of the largest university libraries in Asia.

He pointed out that the King Abdulaziz Foundation played a “pivotal” role in “promoting and preserving Arabic language and literature.”

He added: “I really appreciate that the foundation organized this seminar and discussed the historical linkages between India and the Arabic language. This is an acknowledgement of our shared heritage and history.”

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