The welcome that G20 delegates received at Delhi airport on Friday has left many social media users aghast.
Several have objected to the choice of songs and to the appropriateness of the dance routines performed by young women to greet the delegates as they got off their aircraft.
Questions have been raised over the Narendra Modi government’s awareness of Indian culture — and foreign sensitivities — for all its extolling of India’s past and newfound preference for the name “Bharat” over “India” in official matters.
Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate tweeted a video of the reception accorded to Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez, which shows girls dancing to a Carnatic remix of a western pop hit.
“We are welcoming foreign heads of state with ‘Shape of you’ by Ed Sheeran?!?!” Shrinate wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Shrinate added: “Lyrics that follow ‘Grab on my waist and put that body on me.… I’m in love with your body. Last night you were in my room. And now my bedsheets smell like you’ Embarrassing at the least.”
A report on US news website Politico said: “The biggest moment was the arrival of President JOE BIDEN, who was warmly greeted with dances, senior Indian officials and, curiously, ED SHEERAN’s ‘Shape of You’ blaring over the loudspeaker.”
Shrinate came under fire for questioning the choice of a Rajasthani folk dance to welcome Oman’s Deputy Prime Minister, Sayyid Asaad bin Tarik Al Said.
She wrote on X: “What the hell is wrong with our diplomats? Is there no input and background done on guest’s culture sensitivity? The Oman head of state looked awkward and left abruptly.”
Varun Chothani, who described himself as a Mumbai-based RSS volunteer, replied: “When they come here, they should see our culture! What’s the point in showing them theirs?
“Also, the thought process your party has had for decades, the one out of which you are putting this tweet out, is the very reason why, for years, we were apologetic about our #faith, #culture, values, achievements, contributions and the great history!”
Author Saba Naqvi posted: “Whosoever has choreographed the young girls dancing at airports, has not picked appropriate moves and dances in many cases. Love the girls always but do not want to be embarrassed for my country which I am feeling.”
Swapan Dasgupta, BJP leader and a former Rajya Sabha MP who writes a column in The Telegraph, replied to Naqvi on X: “I had the same feeling when I saw some of the so-called dances.”
The chief organiser of the North East Festival, Shyamkanu Mahanta, tagged Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to a video of the welcome received by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
On X, Mahanta expressed “surprise” at “this horrendous presentation of our beloved Bihu dance welcoming Hon’ble PM of England”.
Some X users underlined that the dancers wore saris and not the Assamese mekhela sador, and that the Bihu rendition — like some of the other dance performances — was a Bollywood version.
Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna wrote on X: “It is so disturbing to watch dancers dancing on a stage near the tarmac to welcome international leaders. From all that I have seen, they all seem to be young girls. This is so degrading!”