Modi, the G20 & the rise of Bharat: Modi’s blazing moment amidst the G20

  • Modi’s India hosted the 2023 G20, showcasing India’s rising global leadership under his tenure 
  • The hosting of the G20 comes amidst a series of successes for India, from landing a rover on the south side of the moon for the first time to bringing back India’s historical name “Bharat” for diplomatic & populist purposes.
  • Modi’s successes overshadow his bid to win the Prime Minister’s seat for the third time, which would make him one of the longest-serving Indian Prime Ministers, but may bring increased religious tensions as an electoral tactic.

Why is Modi’s heat level blazing?

Answer: Modi has led a string of successes for India, from moon landings to hosting the G20 and using the historic name of Bharat for diplomatic purposes.

The reasons why Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India since 2014 and a familiar face in high-level international gatherings is considered BLAZING at this time is because he has spearheaded a plethora of foreign policy initiatives designed to establish India as a global political & technological power through the successful launch of the Chandrayaan 3 rover and hosting the latest G20 summit while seemingly shedding its imperialist shadows by the highly charged political renaming of the country.

However, Modi himself, both before and during his tenure as prime minister has long been a controversial figure in India. He has been notably linked with democratic backsliding, especially regarding the fragile co-existence between Hindus and Muslims. His lifelong ties to Hindu nationalist groups and recent revelations abroad threaten to undermine India’s foreign policy push.

India has had an eventful year on the global stage. In late August India successfully launched the Chandrayaan 3 rover on the moon, making India the 4th country ever to land a moon rover & the first to do so on the moon’s south pole, showcasing a historical achievement for India and science, putting the country at the forefront of such advancements. Not resting on its laurels, India hosted the annual G20 summit where high-level politicians & countries such as US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron & British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, among others.

This essentially gave the message that India is capable of hosting & partaking in high-level discussions that impact the world on a global scale on multiple issues such as climate change or global trade. Practically in tandem with the G20, a rather startling initiative was revealed in which India would be renamed, at least on a political level to Bharat, the ancient name of the Indian subcontinent in multiple local languages before British colonization.

This change was broadcast all over New Delhi for all the cameras, both foreign & local alike to see. The return of Bharat is interesting on a foreign policy level but unsurprising due to Modi’s decades of Hindu nationalist sympathies. Renaming the country is a significant achievement in their overall plans, yet this has not gone through without controversy. All of these recent developments have had Prime Minister Modi as a significant catalyst in their success

What is changing Modi’s heat level?

Answer: Modi is leveraging the name of Bharat for electoral gains with the upcoming 2024 election. 

When looking at the Indian electoral calendar, it becomes clear why such effort is being placed on symbolic outcomes such as these. Next year are Indian parliamentary & local elections, with Modi & the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) up for re-election for a third time. This is also an unprecedented moment in Indian politics as Modi holds the record for the 4th longest time in tenure as PM of India after independence. Locking in a third term would not only help him easily pass the records of Indira Gandhi & Manmohan Singh but also start breathing down the record of the first PM & founding father Jawaharlal Nehru, it would also cement his legacy & personal touch across Indian politics.

On one hand, his supporters would cheer him on as bringing back Indian national identity & strength with moves like the aforementioned, yet his legacy would also include some heavily contested actions such as democratic backsliding, corruption & media suppression and policy heavily favoring Hindus yet completely ignoring other minorities, especially Muslims.

What is driving Modi?

Answer: Winning his 3rd Premiership and becoming one of the longest-serving Indian Prime Ministers.

There are very few external factors that may limit Modi’s ambitions. Despite the criticisms both past and present of his leadership, Modi & the BJP by extension remain massively popular, with certain polls having his approval ratings as high as 76%. In a country that is approximately 80% Hindu, it is no surprise that a leader greatly favouring them would find success nationally. For example during elections in 2019, the BJP won a landslide victory, meaning Modi had the political & popular mandate to introduce policies like the name change for instance.

Another factor that has been in Modi’s favour is that in India, the presidency plays a largely symbolic role and President Droupadi Murmu has done little if anything to impede Modi’s plans. That brings into question Modi’s motives and an analysis of his past provides some crucial contextual clues. 

Ever since he was a teenager, Modi has been affiliated with the RSS, a paramilitary Hindu supremacist organization and worked as an organizer and activist on their behalf for many years. In 2001 he became governor of Gujarat province and he was disputedly involved in the Gujarat riots of 2002 where the state allowed and perpetuated mass Hindu massacres of Muslims after Muslims were falsely blamed for a train accident that killed multiple Hindus.

Even now, that is the single largest controversy of Modi’s career, and although it was established that Modi was involved, to what extent is still unclear. Another defining aspect of this period in his life was him opening Gujarat to external investment, particularly in technology, which today is reflected in initiatives such as “Make in India”.

Under his premiership, notable instances of ethnic violence & hostility have increased, particularly against Muslims. This was highlighted especially in a controversial 2019 law that allowed Indian citizenship to be granted to multiple ethnicities and backgrounds, with Muslims being a glaring exception. The renaming of India to Bharat is another powerful milestone that signals to Hindus that Bharat is theirs, and Muslims are not welcome in Bharat. This sort of rhetoric looks to increase next year during elections and if Modi secures a 3rd term.

And what does this mean for you?

Answer: India’s population and position on the world stage have the potential to cause large-scale consequences

India is tentatively considered the world’s largest democracy and has recently become the most populous nation on Earth. Modi’s policies impact over a billion people, a 7th of the world’s population, and seemingly in a negative way. While India has done well in slowly raising the quality of life in the country, as well as presenting a strong foreign image in the fields of technology and international cooperation, the increasing levels of religious division in the country, as well as major reductions in basic rights, hand-in-hand with a hard swerve to the right, may dampen Modi’s spotlight.

This is not even considering recent accusations from Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, accusing India of murdering a Canadian Sikh on Canadian soil. However, for the moment it appears this is Modi’s moment, as he has accomplished many of his goals, and is now looking to carve out a legacy for the world’s most populous country, with the effects of his actions having deep consequences worldwide.