A gala evening was held at the Russian House in New Delhi to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the first manned flight into space, which was performed by Soviet pilot-cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961. The programme of the evening included the release ceremony of the Special Cover commemorative envelope issued jointly with the Indian Post, inauguration of photo exhibition and award ceremony of the winners of competitions among students of Indian schools and universities.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the evening was held in a hybrid format: a limited number of guests were present at the centre, the rest were connected online through the ZOOM program (more than 170 people). The event was also broadcast live on Facebook.
Main guests of the evening were: Mr R.V. Chaudhary, Director Postal Services, Postal Department Delhi Circle, Mr Roman Babushkin Minister-Counsellor of the Embassy of Russia in India, Mr J.P. Agarwal famous Indian politician, President of the India-Russia Friendship Society, Mr Sanjay Rathee CEO Space Development Nexus, Mr M.S. Prasad Director of the Amity Institute of Space Science and Technology, as well as Mr Sachin Bamba, Managing Director of Space India. In an online format, the meeting was attended by Mr R. Umamaheshvaran the Scientific Secretary of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Mr Dmitry Loskutov General Director of Glavkosmos, Dr Dalbir Singh Co-Chairman of the Eurasian Peoples' Assembly, Ms Olga Tushavina Director of the Aerospace Institute MAI, Ms N. Rathnashree Director Nehru Planetarium (New Delhi). Moreover, Russian pilot-cosmonaut, Hero of the Russian Federation Salizhan Sharipov addressed the audience with a welcoming speech.
Opening the gala evening, Director of the Russian House in New Delhi Mr Fyodor Rozovsky noted that Russian centres in India regularly hold events dedicated to the International Day of Human Space Flight. Space is popular in the country. Its conquerors are still heroes here, to whom there are queues for autographs, including the Russian cosmonauts arriving in India. “As the practice of our work shows, the name of Gagarin here is not just a historical name. Cooperation in the space field today is one of the most important components of the privileged strategic partnership of our countries,” he said.
Mr Rozovsky added that a commemorative stamp dedicated to this anniversary was issued in the Russian House in the southern Indian city of Trivandrum as part of the "My Stamp" scheme of the Indian Post. "There was also a meeting of sixteen Gagarins at once! All of them, as you might guess, were born in 1961-62, and all of them have the name Gagarin in the documents: the Indians called their children that way. Among them was one full namesake named Yuri Gagarin. It should be noted that there are a dozen or two Valentina Tereshkova’s in India, and one can imagine how popular the images of our compatriot cosmonauts in India are, "he said.
As Mr Roman Babushkin noted Gagarin's flight is also the starting point of the Russian-Indian cooperation in a sphere of space exploration, which includes joint flights, and joint work on navigation systems. “Russia and India are closely cooperating in multilateral formats, primarily in the framework of UN Committee on Outer Space, where we promote responsible behaviour to prevent arms race in outer space. This is also part of our agenda in BRICS, where we also work on the initiative of remote satellite constellation," the diplomat said.
In his speech, Mr J.P. Agarwal said that his father, the famous politician R. S. Agarwal, was the organizer of the meeting of Yuri Gagarin in New Delhi in 1961. “Everyone in India loved Gagarin! Thousands of people took to the streets to see this man. There were thousands and thousands of people! Tens of thousands! We were all happy to see Gagarin," he said.
After the official addresses by the main guests, an award ceremony was held for the winners of various competitions, including costumes, songs, dances and posters competitions, which were held by the Russian House as part of the “Let's Go!” festival. Due to the worsening epidemiological situation in the country, the winners themselves were unable to attend the ceremony, their prizes and gifts were presented to representatives of their educational organizations.
At the end of the official part of the program, a photo exhibition was presented to the guests of the centre, the exposition of which included more than 100 historical frames: Yuri Gagarin's visit to India, as well as the main milestones of Russian-Indian cooperation in the field of space exploration.