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China Objects to India’s G20 Logo

1 Sep, 2023

By Brian Grim, Ph.D.

India, the world’s most populous country, is also one of the most diverse. A core philosophy in India is Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which is loosely translated into English as “One Earth • One Family • One Future.” It is the theme for this year’s G20 hosted by India and prominently featured in the G20 logo (above) in Devanagari script and English.

One of the tremendous socio-economic assets of India is it’s cultural and religious pluralism and diversity. Perhaps no phrase captures this more fully than “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” “The World is One Family.” From Gandhi and Nehru to Modi, India’s leaders have evoked the spiritual phrase Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, taken from the Maha Upanishad, to elucidate the country’s national and global outlook.

As we gather this coming week for the G20 Interfaith Forum, we will also be celebrating the accomplishments of Dr. Vishwanath Karad, Founding President and Director General of the MIT World Peace University in Pune, India. As he has said, “Science and spirituality go hand in hand to establish a peace-loving society,” it is therefore quite natural that he also propagates the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

An Indian Ministry of External Affairs recently pointed out that “the theme of India’s G-20 Presidency in English is One Earth, One Family, One Future. This is based on our civilisational ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which has received widespread support and permeates many of the initiatives that India has brought on to the G-20 agenda.”

China’s Objection: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam may not seem a particularly controversial phrase. However, Chinese leader Xi Jinping may skip the G20 heads of state meeting at the end of next week, with one issue being objecting to India including “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” in Devanagari script at the bottom of the G20 logo (above), ostensibly because it’s not a UN language.

News reports further elaborate “… that China was the only country objecting to the use of the phrase, and even Russia, which has consistently opposed the language in G-20 text with regard to Ukraine, has not joined in the Chinese position on it. According to a number of diplomatic sources, the objection to Sanskrit is one of the several areas where Chinese and Indian negotiators have been wrangling over the past few weeks as the Chinese delegations have taken a more confrontational stance over several phrases introduced by the Indian G-20 Sherpa team.”

One has to wonder whether China is objecting only to the Devanagari script for not being a UN language, or to the very concept of universal values and rights. For more on that, see the recent Economist article, “China’s message to the global south – A new propaganda push: ‘universal values’ are a form of racism.”

There are reports that China leader Xi Jinping may even skip the G20 summit altogether. The row over the term Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam may be more than linguistic, but also ideological.