NEW DELHI – Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nameplate at the opening of the Group of 20 (G-20) summit on Saturday referred to India as “Bharat”, raising speculation of a change of name for the South Asian nation.
India is also called Bharat, Bharata and Hindustan – its pre-colonial names – in Indian languages.
These are used interchangeably by the public and officially.
The country has traditionally stuck to using “India” in the titles of office-holders such as the president or prime minister while communicating in English.
But earlier this week, President Droupadi Murmu referred to herself as the President of Bharat in a dinner invitation for a reception of G-20 leaders, sparking controversy.
As Mr Modi declared the summit in New Delhi open on Saturday, he sat behind a table nameplate that read “Bharat”, while the G-20 logo had both names – Bharat written in Hindi, and India in English.
Such placards have used “India” in the past.
Speaking in Hindi, Mr Modi said: “Bharat welcomes the delegates as the president of the G-20”.
New Delhi is hosting leaders of major economies for the bloc’s summit at a new, US$300 million (S$409.6 million) conch-shaped convention centre called Bharat Mandapam, opposite a 16th-century stone fort.
While some supporters of the name Bharat say “India” was given by British colonisers, historians say the name predates colonial rule by centuries.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has always insisted on calling the country Bharat.
Mr Modi’s rivals say the change has been forced by the new opposition alliance formed by 28 parties in July, called India (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance), to take on BJP in parliamentary elections in 2024.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a request for comment. REUTERS
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