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India designs its own 'seductive' image as global power

Washington, Tue, 01 May 2012 ANI

Washington, May 1 (ANI): India's image has transformed drastically in the last decade from an aid recipient nation to a global power, experts say.

The shift in this image is not merely a result of economic growth figures alone - it has resulted from a carefully managed "image campaign" that the Indian government has invested in.

New research by Ravinder Kaur from the University of Copenhagen shows the processes through which a brand new identity for the Indian nation is manufactured.

Brand India is the name of the organisation that since the late 1990's has been tasked with convincing international corporations and heads of state that they should invest in new, modern India. In return for their investment, they get, among other things, access to cheap, well-educated labour.

"The branding campaigns produce seductive images of 'new' India: In the beginning the ads placed traditional Indian motifs together with images of mobile phones, computers, and motor ways to show the investors how India has developed," said Kaur, who is director of Centre of Global South-Asian Studies at the University of Copenhagen.

In her article, she analyses the Indian branding campaigns. And she points out that the campaigns are adjusted continuously so as to attract other kinds of investors and corporations:

"The most recent campaigns employ a different strategy in which large, multinational corporations, such as the luxury car manufacturer Bugatti, encourage other large, multinational corporations to invest in India and see the opportunities in India as a market for luxury goods that can be sold to the growing Indian middle-classes."

Not all Indians, however, recognise themselves in the campaigns' glitzy images, and according to Kaur the discrepancy between image and reality inevitably cause internal conflicts and antagonisms which the Indian government will find it increasingly difficult to suppress.

"Corruption is a huge problem in India, which was amply demonstrated when the country hosted the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The Games should have been a triumph for 'new' India, but degenerated into a corruption scandal that government and industry desperately tried to talk down in order to assuage potential investors' concerns," Kaur added.

Kaur stresses that Western nations need to look beyond all the cliches about the new Asian powers, which are constantly repeated in the media; a country or a corporation that wants to cooperate with for example India must have in-depth knowledge of recent developments in that particular nation.

The study will be published in the forthcoming issue of Third World Quarterly. (ANI)

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