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National identity and geopolitics of choosing a name

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Naming something gives it a defined identity: from children to countries, a name is the most fundamental thing we can know about someone or a place. It is the first building block from which an identity develops, extending into behaviors and probable futures. A nation’s name reflects the history, aspirations, culture and behaviors of its people and can sometimes suggest the long-term goals of its leaders. But when those goals change, the name can also change, as evidenced by India’s occasional use of the term “Bharat” to describe itself at the recent Group of 20 summit. Even though India may not be not quite ready to change its calling card, New Delhi’s possible consideration of such a name change makes sense in a context of changing identities, power dynamics and goals in the era of multipolar power politics.

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