New Delhi — Kings and other potentates have been provided with Jacuzzi baths. Machine-gun emplacements have been decorated with flowers to blunt their warlike effect. Through official handouts, some 1,200 accredited correspondents read of the caviar and delicacies on which leaders dine.
Dubbed the New Delhi ''gulag'' by one veteran American journalist, the meeting of nonaligned nations and those of the attending delegations are strictly off-limits to correspondents.
For this, the seventh summit, is the most protected nonaligned meeting ever held, as 60 chiefs of state and government come together at a critical time to determine where the movement is going and what role, if any, it has to play.
In scores of meetings between chairman India, the oil giants, the poorest of the poor, four nations under full or partial occupation by foreign troops, and six engaged in shooting wars, the cracks and the contradictions of the nonaligned movement are there for all to see. There is also a hefty dose of arguing, posturing and, confronting each other on the movement's ideology.
It is after all an eclectic amalgam of 101 states, whose very success in the anti-colonial movement robbed it of a good deal of its early legitimacy. Then, under the chairmanship of Cuba, and Fidel Castro's debatable notion that the Soviet Union was the movement's ''natural ally,'' it drew even closer to Moscow. When the Soviets invaded nonaligned Afghanistan, Moscow's support in the movement was eroded - but not substantially.
''The Soviets are still making a serious bid to hijack the nonaligned movement,'' Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister S. Rajaratnam told a small group of correspondents. ''But the Indians have woken up. They see a movement created by Asians, Africans, and Tito being taken over by Castro and a handful of Latin American states.''
Realigning this diverse grouping, of all levels of economics, politics and social change, is not going to be easy. Nor will it happen overnight.
But the indefatigable Mrs. Gandhi continues to bargain hard for a movement shorn of polemics, concentrating on a few substantive issues on which it can have impact. She therefore would return the movement to the role of providing an alternative between East and West as envisaged by her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the movement's founders.
Clearly, the nonaligned nations could play such an important collective role in world affairs, if only they could rid themselves of some of their more derisive, internal discord.
If the nonaligned had a position on the Iran-Iraq war, that position should matter. After all, both the oil-producing antagonists are nonaligned members. So are Afghanistan and Kampuchea, yet Kampuchea is occupied by fellow-member Vietnam. Somalia and Ethiopia are locked in battle over the mineral-rich Ogaden; Algeria and Morocco face each other in the western Sahara. ''I've stopped counting,'' said one weary African delegate, ''it just goes on and on.''
But the count is being forced at this summit, and hard bargaining is taking place in an attempt to hammer out talking points for the myriad of belligerent members. The summit is thus breaking a sancrosanct, gentlemen's agreement: nonaligned members do not discuss the errancies of nations among their ranks.
India, Algeria, and Egypt expended a Herculean amount of time and energy in trying to bring Iran and Iraq together, if even for indirect talks. Indira Gandhi offered her own brand of shuttle diplomacy, and the Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz agreed to the terms. Then Iran's low-level delegation announced that the conflict would be decided not at the conference table, but on the battlefield. The death blow came on Monday, at the summit's opening, when neither the Iranian nor Iraqi leaders even appeared.
The frustrations are no less formidable in attempting to guide the movement as a whole to a more balanced role. Indeed there have been 176 amendments to India's moderate draft document on nonaligned political positions, the final version of which will emerge from the summit as the nonaligned's guiding philosophy over the next three years.
It will certainly be more constructive than the document produced at Havana, and far less thunderous and bellicose against the West. But the United States, which was named only twice, and mildly, in the original version, is bound to come under attack for its role in Latin America, especially Nicaragua and El Salvador.
''I cannot believe Ronald Reagan is so naive,'' said one disheartened Latin American who had fought hard for moderate language in the Latin American text. ''To seek four-fold military aid to El Salvador on the very day we were debating the language of the draft . . . then Washington says we're anti-American. Such language merely breeds contempt.''
Yet the summit's most contentious political issue has been the Indian Ocean, Diego Garcia, and its US support facility. It promises to be a key area of controversy under India's chairmanship.
But, in the tradeoff of consulting, debating, and seeking to persuade, the conference will support Mauritian claims of sovereignty over the British-owned Diego Garcia; will not call specifically for dismantling the US facilities; will not censure the Soviet Union for its naval buildup in the Indian Ocean; and those ''foreign troops'' in Afghanistan will remain anonymous once again.
The seat of Kampuchea was left vacant, in a feeble effort to avert another major confrontation among members. The Soviet Union was attacked by a handful of nations in the plenary session; Washington was consistently taken to task.
''The United States cannot hope for equal treatment at such a meeting,'' one Latin American delegate said. ''There are two precious issues within the nonaligned - South Africa and the Palestinians. And, unfortunately for Washington, as opposed to the Soviet Union, it has consistently come down on the wrong side.''
Yet despite all the posturing in public and pomposity on display, there is a growing acknowledgement in private sessions that the nonaligned needs the West - needs its technology, financial assistance, and development expertise. Strong voices, including Yugoslavia, Egypt, India, and Algeria, are pushing hard for acceptance of what would appear to be a nondivisive stand: more concentration on economic matters is one way to get the movement back on track.
For better or for worse, the East and the West continue to scrutinize the movement, listening to what it says, even though eventually they may go their independent ways.