In his speech at the launch of the logo, theme and website of the G20 in November 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the impression that India’s Presidency of the G20 is a new responsibility and a measure of the world’s trust in India, ignoring the fact that the Presidency of the G20 goes to each member country by rotation.
The Presidency, which India will have from December 1, 2022, to November 30, 2023, is no big deal. It is not the first time that India has become the President of the group, but it is definitely the first time that the media has taken the Presidency in a big way and the government has made it into a grand celebration.
The G20 was formed in September 1999 as a consequence of a severe economic crisis in East Asia, which had adversely affected the world economy. It was a group of developed and developing countries represented by their finance ministers and central bank governors.
India got the opportunity to chair the meeting in 2001. After the financial crises of 2008, the membership of G20 was raised to the level of heads of government. Since then, this is the first time that India is chairing the meeting. The US was the first to get the Presidency. Now, from among the 20 members, only Brazil and South Africa remain. Brazil will get it in 2024 and with South Africa’s Presidency in 2025, all the 19 member countries and the European Union would have had a chance to chair the meeting.
Yet the Indian public is made to believe that this is a special responsibility bestowed upon India because it is capable of providing a solution to the chaos and crisis which surrounds the world today.
The prime minister addressing the winter session of parliament said, “This G20 Summit is not just a diplomatic event but an opportunity to display India’s capability before the world in a holistic manner. Such a large country, mother of democracy, so many diversities, so many potentials and therefore, this is a big opportunity for the world to know India and for India to show its potentials to the whole world.”
While launching the logo, theme and website, the prime minister emphasised again that the G20 Presidency is a new responsibility and a measure of the world’s trust in India. It has come at a time when the world is surrounded by the after effects of the pandemic, and economic uncertainties.
“These challenges which the world faces can be resolved through the philosophy of Advait, the unity of the living being,” he said.
Both the logo and the theme of the current G20 is inspired by Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the highest and the most beautiful Vedantic thought, found in Chapter 6 of the Maha Upanishad which says that the world is one family, all living beings on this planet are one family.
‘One World, One Family, One Future’, is the theme of this much celebrated G20 meeting. The logo too reflects this theme with a lotus, its seven petals radiating the vibrant colours of the Indian flag. The goddesses of knowledge and prosperity are seated on it, depicting that the world needs to share knowledge and wealth. The seven petals represent the seven continents and also the seven notes of music where each note has its diversity and yet creates harmony when played together.
The prime minister, in his speech, mentions India’s diversity and uniqueness, its democracy and inclusive thinking. He says the world is looking for solutions to its challenges in these very ideas. He hopes to bring together the world in harmony while respecting its diversity. He also hopes to show the world that the scope of conflict ends when democracy becomes a ‘system as well as a ritual and culture’.
One wonders which mother of democracy and what inclusive thinking the prime minister has in mind. Inclusive thought is totally absent from every action of his government, and all that remains of democracy in India is just its name.
Bringing together the world in harmony while respecting its diversity is a tall order our prime minister has given to himself. He has held the reins of the Indian government for more than eight years. He could have done a lot to bring harmony in India while respecting its diversity. On the contrary, his government has allowed India’s diversity to be considered the darkest spot and a shame.
‘One World, One Family, One Future,’ is fine as a theme for this event but should there not be ‘One India’ first, before we talk of ‘One World’?
No country can be more divided than India is today, where hatred for minorities is spread by politicians and even Members of Parliament.
Where unconstitutional laws, targeting them, are enacted at the drop of a hat.
Where calls for killing of minorities are given repeatedly at Dharam Sansads.
Where the bulldozer finds any excuse to pull down their homes and hearths.
Where Muslims dread going near Hindus for fear of being pushed into jails for ‘love jihad.’
Where any poor Muslim is dubbed a terrorist; where any Christian is arrested for the ‘crime’ of converting Hindus to Christianity; where a Dalit is still an ‘untouchable’, and dare not complain when her or his daughters are raped by ‘upper’ caste men.
And where the Enforcement Directorate and other government agencies sit in ever ready mode to raid opposition leaders.
The two hundred events round the year connected with the G20 will bring into focus the cultural heritage and tourist spots of India and may increase tourist footfall in future years too. The Summit will be watched by the world and by India with great interest.
Powerful world leaders will also be in India and meet Modi, the host. But will that transform the Prime Minister’s image to that of a ‘world guru’?
Will India’s narrative of being a vibrant ‘mother of democracy’ be swallowed by the world leaders?
That is doubtful. How the majority of Indians will view the summit and the prime minister is another question altogether. The answer to that question can play a role in deciding the fate of the electoral battle of 2024.
Parveen Talha is a former officer of the Indian Revenue Service and the Union Public Service Commission.