The mainstay of the India International Centre is its programme activities. In furtherance of its objectives, the Centre organises talks, discussions and symposia in which scholars and leaders of culture and thought, both from India and abroad, participate.

An Advisory Council appointed by the Board of Trustees advises the Centre on the thrust of the programmes. Over the years, the Centre has developed a close and mutually beneficial relationship with prominent academic and cultural institutions in India and abroad, as well as diplomatic missions and their cultural centres. Universities and cultural organizations collaborate with us in organizing lectures and seminars, symposia and round tables with eminent scholars visiting the country. The intimate nature of such interaction, which encourages meaningful discussions, has drawn some of the world’s leading thinkers and speakers. In the early years, visiting delegates have included Pearl S. Buck, P.M.S. Blackett, Robert Goheen, Paul Gore-Booth, Frédérick Leboyer and Ivan Illich. In recent years, eminent public personalities speaking at the Centre have included H.H. the Dalai Lama, Julius Nyerere, Willy Brandt, Henry Kissinger, Lee Kuan Yew, Shimon Peres, Christopher Patten, Romano Prodi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Wangari Mathai, Kofi Annan, Shirin Abadi, Jody Williams, Mairead Corrigan-MacGuire, Baroness Catherine Ashton, Amina Cachalia,  Madeleine Albright, and Princess Maha Chakri Sririndhorn.

The talks and symposia range from international and civic affairs, ethics and human rights, history and archaeology, environment, ecology and wild life to dimensions in science, technology and medicine, to religion, philosophy, culture and literature. Writers and scholars who drew large audiences at the Centre have included Octavio Paz, Christophe von Furer-Haimendorf, Gunter Grass, Sayed Hossein Nasr, Ved Mehta, Noam Chomsky, Kathleen Raine, Edward Goldsmith, Masanobu Fukuoka, Eric Hobsbawm, Jean Dreze, Charles Taylor, M.S. Swaminathan, Ramachandra Gandhi, Romila Thapar, Gloria Steinem, Bhiku Parikh, Narayana Murty, Sir Martin Gilbert, Robert Thurman, Nadine Gordimer, Mahasweta Devi, Amartya Sen, Nissim Ezekiel, Salman Rushdie, Orhan Palmuk, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh and Jung Chang.

The Centre is an important venue for holding international conferences on cultural exchange, initiated by the Centre itself and by other institutions. Among the notable events organised by the IIC were the Asian Relations Commemorative Conference in 1987, two conferences held in India and the USSR in 1988, Understanding Contemporary Africa in 1996, the Symposium on Greece-India in 1996, and 'Austrian Millennium'- commemorating the founding of the Austrian nation in 1997. Seminars on SAARC, South Asia, China; India & Europe, and India and Australasia; the Centre initiated the Track – II Indo-Bangladesh Dialogue in collaboration with Centre for Policy Dialogue, Dhaka. To mark the centenary year of Hind Swaraj in 2009, the Centre organised the Hind Swaraj Centenary International Seminar on “Social Development and the Human Civilization in the 21st Century” and in 2019 “Gandhi 150 – International Seminar on Satyagraha in the 21st Century” both in collaboration with Council for Social Development. Other seminars have focused on Latin America, Africa, the Indian Diaspora - `Focus Ghana’ 2012; `India and Its Diaspora’, 2013; ‘Understanding Africa’, 2020. Seminars on craft traditions 

‘International Symposium on Ties that Bind – Ikat: Past, Present, Future’, 2017; and ‘International Seminar on Costumes – Past, Present and Conserved’, 2020. The yearly seminar ‘Creative Theory Colloquium’ brings together political theorists with academicians and practitioners from other disciplines to reflect on contemporary situations. Other seminars include ‘Palestine in India: A Writer’s Colloquium’, 2016; ‘Tasting India Symposium’ (2017, 2018 & 2019), ‘Conference on Trauma and Reconciliation – To Remember or to Forget’, 2018; ‘Martin Luther King Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement: 50 Years Later’, 2018; ‘Life and Legacy of Guru Padmasambhava’, 2019; and ‘Seminar on Isaiah Berlin’, 2019. 

Celebrating Women’s Leadership a series of talks and seminars which recalled the transformative leadership of earlier women leaders as well as focused on the contemporary experiences; ‘Living Rivers, Dying Rivers’ 2011/2012 a yearlong series of lectures; lectures on Science and Technology in India’, 2013-2015; special series on ‘The Himalaya: A Timeless Quest’, 2015-2016; ‘Mental Health’, 2016; ‘State of the Nation’, 2017; ‘Heritage and Democracy: IIC – ICOMOS Public Outreach Discussions’, 2017; ‘Delhi Matters’, 2017-2018; ‘Metamorphoses: Talking Technology’, 2018; ‘Healthcare in India’, 2019; and ‘Mapping Sustainable Agriculture’, 2020. Popular lecture series on Frontiers of History, Indian Archaeology, Environment and Health Public Lecture,  

Every year the Centre organises the C.D. Deshmukh Memorial Lecture, in memory of the founder of the Centre, where distinguished persons in the fields of education, governance and economics, science and culture are invited to speak. Other annual events are a lecture on Governance and a seminar on the Mid-Year Review of the Indian Economy, the proceedings of which are published.

Since 2004, the Centre has introduced an annual festival ‘The IIC Experience: A Festival of the Arts’ which presents the finest talents in the visual and performing arts. The entire spectrum of the Centre’s activities: dance, music (Indian and Western), theatre, folk and installation art, photography exhibition, the best of world cinema festival and cuisine are presented in the duration of a week.  All the events unfold in the serene spaces that are part of the Centre’s reflective ambience, in keeping with its very purpose as a platform for cross-cultural exchanges, a place where people meet and share new ideas and to open horizons.  

The Golden Jubilee

The Centre marked its Golden Jubilee in 2012 with a yearlong celebration which began on 22nd  January with a talk by the Vice-President of India, Hamid Ansari. The then President of India, Pratibha Devisingh Patil released a commemorative stamp to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Centre at Rashtrapati Bhawan on 9 February. Throughout the year Golden Jubilee lectures were delivered by eminent practitioners and thinkers from across the globe and included, Vikram Seth; Justice S.H. Kapadia; Louise Arbour; Justice Michael Kirby; Philip G. Altbach; Sydney Brenner; Partha Majumdar; and Paul Davies. A series of nine Golden Jubilee Lectures on Governance were delivered and the speakers included K.C. Sivaramakrishnan; George Mathew; Sandeep Shastri; Amitabha Kundu; among others. Ten Golden Jubilee Lectures on Environment was delivered and the speakers included Sunita Narain; Madhav Gadgil; E. Somanathan; Malika Virdi; Ashok Khosla, among others. Two special Golden Jubilee publications were brought out, The Golden Thread: Essays in Honour of C.D. Deshmukh; and Secrets from the Kitchen: Fifty Years of Culinary Experience at the India International Centre compiled by Bhicoo Manekshaw and Vijay Thukral. 

The Centre commissioned Dr. Indira Chowdhury of ARCH@Srishti (Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru) and the Archival Resources for Contemporary History at Srishti, Bangalore, to record the IIC’s Oral History through interviews with people who have known the Centre since its inception, those who have shaped its development as Trustees, Directors or senior staff, and with members who have contributed to its rich intellectual and cultural life—artists, performers, writers, diplomats and policy-makers. Audio clips from 21 of these interviews that evoked what the IIC was in its early years formed a part of the exhibition, ‘Form and Spirit: IIC at 50’ at the IIC Experience 2012.

Performing Arts

Performances of classical dance, music and folk forms from different regions of India as well as from abroad form an essential feature of the Centre's cultural activities. In addition to regular Hindustani and Carnatic vocal and instrumental recitals, and classical Indian dance performances; presentations of dance and art forms from lesser known traditions, and from far flung corners of the country is encouraged by the Centre. The Centre has actively encouraged and promoted young and upcoming artists from all over the country; and provides a platform for established artists to present experimental works and new compositions in dance and music. The Centre has also become an important platform for Western music concerts--recitals, chamber music orchestras and international vocalists.

‘Music Appreciation Promotion’ a popular ongoing series of illustrated lecture -demonstrations is designed to initiate, inform, educate and entertain a cross section of audiences on different genres and styles of music across the world. The special seasonal festivals, ‘Spring’, ‘Summer’, ‘Monsoon’ and ‘Winter’ focuses on young and upcoming dancers, vocalists and musicians; on specific genre and themes are held over two days each.

A cultural feature promoted by the Centre has been the 'country festivals' organised with the support of cultural missions and embassies of different countries, through lectures, seminars, performances, film screenings, exhibitions and cuisine. These have included 'Namaste Japan'; 'Tibet 2000 - Survival of the Spirit'; ‘Aotearea-The Land of the Long White Cloud’, New Zealand, 2004; ‘Portugal- Call of the Sea, 2005; ‘Japan Year in India in 2007’; and ‘Vietnam Days in India’, 2018.

Similarly, to promote a greater awareness of lesser known communities in India and the cultural diversities of India's traditions, the Centre presented a series of programmes featuring the Parsees, Kodavas of Coorg, and Northeast India - Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Assam.

In recent years several festivals were organised which focused on specific themes: Festival of Water, 2004; ‘From the Very Heart of India: The Madhya Pradesh Festival’; ’50 Years in Exile: The Tibet Experience’; on great literary and spiritual personalities: ‘Utsav – Celebrating Tagore in the 21st Century’; Festival of Kabir in Film and Song, 2009; and ‘Jashn-i-Khusro’-festival of the kalam of Hazrat Amir Khusro, 2010; ‘Samyukta: Collaborations in Creativity’; Festival of Rare Instruments, 2012;  Azamgarh Festival, 2013; ‘Threads of Continuity’, a year-long festival held in 2016 to present tangible and intangible cultural heritage of the Parsee community; ‘ArtEast’, 2017-; and ‘Words in the Garden’ – A Celebration of Literature, Arts and Ideas, 2017 onwards.  

Aspects of folk and classical performances which were in need of patronage have been presented by the Centre in collaboration with the Sangeet Natak Akademi and these include performances of Koodiyattam, Mudiyettu, Pavakathakali and Yakshagana, which were once new to audiences in Delhi. As a tribute to Smt Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, Founder-Trustee of the Centre, in 2000 and 2001 the Centre presented two puppet festivals. These festivals featured local puppeteers from Delhi as well as those from other parts of the country and abroad including the world renowned Wayang Kulit - shadow puppet tradition of Indonesia. In 2016, the Centre presented a special programme, ‘Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya and the Making of Modern India’ which included an exhibition, discussions, seminars, film screenings and performances.

The Centre regularly presents exhibitions of paintings, photographs, sculptures, pottery, ceramic, and glass works of artists from India and abroad. The focus of the exhibitions is to present younger artists, lesser known art forms and folk and traditional styles. The Centre is now an established venue for the presentation of photography as an art form and for new and experimental forms in the arts.   Exhibitions on specific themes and linked to lectures and performances are also organized.

Programmes organised by the Centre are open to the public without tickets, invitations or passes. The programmes are announced in the monthly Programme Card which is sent to members and non-members by post and by email; as well as announced on the website.  

The Centre has introduced webcasting of select lectures, talks, dance and music performances which are now webcast live on the IIC website four times a month. The web recordings are archived on the website and is accessible to all.