Nirupama Rao has been described as India’s “diva of diplomacy”: she was that country’s foreign secretary from 2009 to 2011 and served as ambassador to the United States, China, Sri Lanka, Peru, and Bolivia during her career. She also has a passion for music. Last year, she and her husband, Sudhakar Rao, embarked on a new mission: to create an orchestra of musicians from multiple South Asian countries—many of them from war-torn regions experiencing conflict—aimed at promoting peace and understanding. The orchestra is called Chiragh, a Hindi word for “the lamp that dispels darkness,” with musi-cians from nations including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. This spring, Chiragh debuted at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, led by American conductor Viswa Subbaraman.

Here, Rao shares her thoughts about the role orchestras can play in building bridges across geopolitical divides.

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