As India takes center stage as the host of the Group of 20 (G20) summit, an undeniable spectacle has unfolded on both the national and international fronts. The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has orchestrated an extravagant promotion and publicity campaign that verges on the ostentatious, drawing mixed reactions from various quarters.
In a rather conspicuous fashion, Prime Minister Modi’s visage has been omnipresent on colossal posters in cities across India, ostensibly celebrating the nation’s G20 presidency. Furthermore, approximately one hundred national monuments, including the revered Red Fort in Delhi, have been dramatically illuminated with the G20 emblem, encouraging the public to engage in selfie-mania. Notably, government-sponsored educational materials have gone so far as to assert that India, as the “Fountain Head of Democracy,” is a befitting host for the G20.
It would be reasonable to assume that India’s peers within the G20 had personally endorsed and heralded this momentous occasion, given the scale of the advertising blitz that has unfurled. However, the reality remains that India’s role as host is a product of the rotating G20 presidency, rather than an exceptional privilege.
This ostentatious display of self-aggrandizement coincides with India’s bid to assert itself as an emerging global player on the geopolitical and economic fronts. Various nations have courted India as a burgeoning force, while it positions itself as a champion and exemplar for developing countries. For Prime Minister Modi, the G20 presidency serves as a validation and celebration of India’s ascension, intertwined with his own image, as he seeks a third term in the upcoming election.
However, critics argue that this extensive promotional campaign represents an unsavory politicization of an international event primarily designed to foster economic cooperation. Notably, India’s G20 logo prominently features the lotus ( India’s national flower), emblematic of Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and at the logo’s launch, he proclaimed that “the lotus still blooms” even amidst global crises.
In parallel, television programs and newspapers, have ceaselessly extolled India’s moment in the global spotlight. Reports suggest that the government has allocated more than $100 million towards over 200 G20-related events across numerous Indian cities, transforming the very nature of holding the G20 presidency.
These lavish events have taken on the atmosphere of a boisterous carnival, providing Prime Minister Modi with an early platform for electioneering. While Mr. Modi’s party contends that political gains from the G20 are well-deserved, critics question the appropriateness of using an international forum for domestic political advantage.
Proponents within the BJP assert that the G20 offers an opportunity to showcase India’s “best face” to the world. Nevertheless, the extensive pageantry has arguably blurred the line between diplomatic responsibility and political promotion, raising concerns about the future of G20 summits.
Moreover, the G20 promotional events have embraced a touch of extravagance that goes beyond diplomacy. Delegates from around the globe have been treated to an assortment of Indian delights, including visits to the scenic landscapes of Kashmir and opulent displays of Indian culture. While these gestures aim to present India in a positive light, they inadvertently overshadow the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir and the suspension of democracy in the region.
Additionally, it is crucial to note that India’s G20 preparations extend beyond the cultural, delving into the practical realm. However, the process has included the eviction of marginalized communities, sparking allegations of governmental exploitation of the G20 to dispossess vulnerable citizens.
As India basks in the international limelight as G20 host, it is pertinent to evaluate whether the grandeur surrounding the event truly reflects the essence of diplomatic cooperation or if it has evolved into a theatrical platform for domestic politics. While the extensive preparations may showcase India’s potential on the world stage, they also pose questions about the integrity and future of international summits.