G20 Symbol and Political Debate in India

Prime Minister of India recently released the logo, theme, and website of the G20 Summit of 2023. New Delhi will be hosting the G20 summit the next year. The logo contains an image of a lotus and a Rig Veda message “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”- One Earth, One Family, and One Future”. India assumed the office of the presidency on Dec. 1 of this year for the entire year of 2023. The Summit is scheduled to take place from 9th to 10th september 2023. India invited Bangladesh, Singapore, Spain, and a few other countries to the G20 summit in India. The release of the logo created a sharp controversy among the political parties in India. Congress alleges that, through the logo, BJP is shamelessly promoting its political symbol that also has a lotus with saffron, green and white colours . Congress general secretary in charge of communications Jairam Ramesh tweeted, “Over 70 years ago, Nehru rejected the proposal to make Congress flag the flag of India. Now, BJP’s election symbol has become official logo for India’s presidency of G20!”

The questions that have been raised include why and in what conditions, the lotus symbol was used in the G20 logo, Why lotus symbol should be there in the logo? There are other symbols too which include tiger, roaring lion, etc. Why were these symbols not chosen?

On the contrary Prime Minster of India while unveiling the logo says that the lotus is the symbol of hope and may give a new hope to the world which is suffering from  economic and political crises at this moment.

“The world is going through the after-effects of a disruptive once-in-a-century pandemic, conflicts, and a lot of economic uncertainty. The symbol of the lotus in the G20 logo is a representation of hope in these times. No matter how adverse the circumstances, the lotus still blooms,” PM Modi said.

Prime Minister further said that in India the Goddess of knowledge and prosperity also sits in lotus. And both things are essential at the moment. Shared knowledge and prosperity can help us to overcome the present situation. The seven petals of the lotus signify several notes in the universal language of music. The seven notes when coming together, create perfect harmony. And the color of the lotus represents the age-old tradition of India, renunciation.

From a comparative perspective, the symbol used by South Korea in 2010 assumes significance. The South Korean Design was based around a stylized traditional Korean lantern (a ‘chongsa-chorong’) hanging from a tree branch, its light represented by a 20-pointed star (symbolizing the number of member-states of the G20). The light of the lantern is also represented in such a way that resembles the rising sun, dividing the central horizontal axis into a red sky and blue ground. These are also the colours of the Korean flag, whose central device, the taegukki, is similarly divided equally red and blue.

What needs to be understood is the fact that the G20 lantern in South Korea symbolized tradition and history from the most rustic and ancient of Koreana, and standing for progress into a new age and there was no reflection of any alleged  political symbol being associated with the same.

On the other hand, the London G20 protest on April 1, 2009 reflected a different side of the use of logo. It was also the first major protest after the global economic meltdown beginning in the fall of 2008. In the months leading up to the G20, ordinary people’s lives had been affected by the global economic crisis in many countries around the world. Thus, six types of visual symbolism were used in the 2009 London G20 protest — costumes, emblems, effigies, flags, organisation banners, and slogans.

Going forward, the political parties needs to be more careful  that internal political issues should not be highlighted while planning such events that are  related to foreign policy of the country, thus the political system must echo with same voice. Since Foreign policy is a delicate matter and larger domestic political consensus is essential for the international actions especially for India, whose foreign-policy objective has been to demand a place in decision-making councils of the world.

[Photo by Wikimedia Commons]

Abhinav Mehrotra is an Assistant Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University. His research interests include International law, Human rights law, UN studies, Refugee law, Child rights, and Transitional Justice.
Dr. Biswanath Gupta is an Associate Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University. His research interests include International Law, Air and Space Law.

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