NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 07:28
It cannot escape anyone who visits the Indian capital New Delhi: India is hosting the G20. There are gigantic billboards throughout the city that refer to the international summit of economic powers.
India is portrayed as ‘ambitious’, ‘a world leader’ and the ‘mother of democracy’. Prime Minister Modi is prominently featured on all billboards. Critics speak of a disguised election campaign.
At Connaught Place, the largest market in central New Delhi, reactions are divided. “The fact that the G20 is now here is thanks to Modi,” thinks student Saima. “He has built up very good relationships with other countries. Because the G20 is here, Indian youth will find it much easier to get a job abroad.”
Munit Vats thinks that India has gained more prestige worldwide under Modi. “Earlier, Indians were discriminated against abroad. You heard stories about Indians being beaten up in Australia. You never hear that anymore. That is clearly thanks to Modi.”
Others are not impressed. “The G20 is organized once in every country, so for it to be in India is not that big of an achievement,” said Nitesh Kumar Mishra, who is shopping with Shruti Tyagi. She is proud of the Prime Minister. “It is good that we have such a strong face to represent India on international platforms,” she said. She hopes that hosting the G20 will be a stepping stone to an even better position on the world stage. “We don’t have much power. It would be nice if we had veto power.” She is referring to an equal place among the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
AFPWelcome billboard showing Prime Minister Modi
There is a very different atmosphere in Janta Camp, a few hundred meters away from the brand new conference center where the G20 summit will be held tomorrow and Sunday. A large part of the slum was demolished in the run-up to the G20. The remaining inhabitants are surrounded by blockades. They can only enter or leave the neighborhood via a narrow bridge over a wide open sewer. “The children cannot reach their school, the people cannot get to work on time,” said a resident. “What do people gain from the G20? It has increased our problems,” said another.
Demolishing slums is one of the measures the government took in the run-up to the summit. Street dogs and monkeys were also removed from the city center as much as possible.
Now, just before the top, the finishing touches are being added. Flower beds are raked, streets swept. Ugly things along the route that world leaders take are hidden from view with walls and signs in cheerful colors. The center of the city is almost completely closed off before the summit.
“They show visitors the positive things, but not the bad things, and that’s often how it goes,” says a passerby. “They should also show them the slums and the dirty water of the Yamuna river,” he says. “Geopolitically, India may become more important. But if you look at the facts and statistics, I don’t think there is much economic growth.”
The question is also whether the many billboards that portray Prime Minister Modi as a world leader will help him in next year’s parliamentary elections. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, who wrote a biography of Modi, doesn’t think so. “The average Indian is not really interested in international relations,” he says. “The government and Modi are trying to give the impression that no prime minister has been treated with as much respect as Modi has now. But the reality is that little has been done to convince people that India is now a world leader.”