Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered his opening address to the G20 conference on Saturday with the term “Bharat” — an ancient Sanskrit word — on his nation nameplate, the clearest indication yet of a prospective official shift.
The gesture occurred only days after invitations to the summit dinner were sent out in the name of the “President of Bharat,” sparking speculation that the country’s English name will be phased out.
Modi frequently refers to India as “Bharat,” a word that dates back to ancient Hindu texts and is one of the country’s two official titles under its constitution.
Members of his Hindu nationalist party have already campaigned against adopting India, the country’s more well-known name, which has roots in Western antiquity and was adopted during the British occupation.
His administration has tried to obliterate all traces of British dominance from the country’s urban landscape, governmental institutions, and history books.
Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar appeared to embrace the concept of dropping the name India earlier this year.
“Bharat” he said, had “a meaning and understanding and a connotation that comes with it and that is reflected in our Constitution as well,” the Hindustan Times quoted him as saying on Wednesday.
Rumours of the plan were enough to spark a mix of anger from opposition lawmakers and enthusiastic support from other quarters.
“I hope the government will not be so foolish as to completely dispense with ‘India’,” Shashi Tharoor of the opposition Congress party said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Former Test cricketer Virender Sehwag urged India’s cricket board to use “Bharat” on team uniforms, writing: “India is a name given by the British (and) it has been long overdue to get our original name ‘Bharat’ back.”