Modi returns after a successful US visit
To plunge in Swatch Bharat campaign
Assembly elections wait for him
5-day visit marks a milestone in India-US relations
To fight terrorism together
New Delhi, October 1: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has returned to India in the evening of Wednesday after a five-day visit to the US. He ended his US trip on a successful note. He has proved once again that he is adept at using occasions like this for political mileage back home. His two meetings with US President Obama have been hugely useful though the chanting of Modi mantra by enthusiastic Indian-Americans even in the presence of Obama at Martin Luther King Jr Memorial must have amused the US President.
The five-day visit by Modi to the US was a path-breaking one for more than one reason. It was Modi’s first trip as Indian Prime Minister. US President Obama had hosted Modi on two successive days, a rare gesture towards any visiting dignitary. Modi was visiting the US after a stunning victory at the polls and forming a government based on goodwill. It was a visit that yielded a tangible result at least in the case of fighting international terrorism together. Modi must be congratulating himself on his way back home by Air India One for the excellent planning and execution of his visit. Planning plays an important part in the politics of Modi. It was media and publicity planning that helped him emerge as the tallest personality on the Indian political horizon. The same kind of efforts made him a star in the US trip.
Modi attended a lunch hosted by Vice President Joe Biden after the joint statement with President Obama was over. At that reception Biden joked, “The PM is fasting and we keep taking him to lunch and dinner”. On the same occasion, Secretary of State John Kerry humorously said, “We can never top the rock star reception you got at Madison Square Garden”. Did Kerry have his tongue in cheek? Modi was fasting on account of Navaratri.
Not only Kerry, many American observers must have been amused by the way the Indian-Americans played the drums in honour of Modi. The estimated 18,000 crowd was mobilized with great effort and the Indian-Americans flexed their political muscle by staging a grand reception for their leader who was humiliated by the US by denying visa to visit the country. Most of the organizers were those who stood by Modi during his dark days of visa denial and who generously contributed to the election campaign effort by Modi in May. Modi was hailed as the star of Rock Star Diplomacy. His style commanded respect and his overwhelming confidence must have impressed the Indian-Americans as well as the people back home. The credit for using a political speech delivered on a foreign soil for election gains in Maharashtra and Haryana goes to Modi. It certainly established Modi’s larger-than-life image on a strong footing.
The national media did Modi a great favour by sending journalists and technicians in large numbers although the Prime Minister discontinued the practice of taking journalists along with him on foreign tours. Journalists like Arnab Goswamy, Barkh Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai were vying with each other in extolling his qualities of statesmanship and praising every move made and celebrate every word uttered by Modi. It was more for the domestic consumption than for the foreign one. The national media which helped create the wave for Modi during the general elections has been successful in keeping it alive even four months after the polls.
Modi made use of the Madison Square Garden event to send a signal to the 30 lakh Indian-Americans that they can use their political clout for the sake of their motherland. Modi had about thousand supporters cheering him when he attended the United Nations General Assembly. It did not happen to Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi who were more or equally popular. It is a reflection of changing times and growing presence and assertiveness of Indian-American community. The cheering may have been organized by the local supporters, most of them Gujaratis, but it was not warranted. It gave the impression that the person who was on a visit was a Bollywood star like Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bachan and not a political leader like Narendra Modi. But the noise would have its impact on the people in India to some extent.
It also indicates that the times when the world leader would confine themselves to conference halls and meeting rooms for international diplomacy are over. It seems to be the time for publicity oriented and action oriented international diplomacy. Although Modi speech at the UNGA reminded one of Nehruvian soaring internationalism, the scholarly disposition of the first prime minister was absent. It was substituted by exuberant gestures and energetic body language. By speaking in Hindi, Modi played safe. He also made the people in his country and leaders in Nagpur happy by speaking in the native tongue although Hindi is not one of the six official languages at UN and most of the members present in the audience could not have the benefit of understanding what the PM was saying. They had to put up with the filtered translation. Even then, the PM made a blunder in referring to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as part of Pakistan. It was a gaffe which must have made someone in Pakistan chortle with glee. This is the danger inherent in speaking extempore at a very important international gathering. It also reflects badly on Indian PM for his carelessness in speaking on a very sensitive subject like Jammu & Kashmir. Both Madison Square and UNGA extravaganza, however, went just as planned. It helped in creating a hype. It may not any effect on the overall impact of his tour.
A number of important decisions have been taken at the summit that last more than two and a half hours. India and the US agreed to jointly fight international terrorism, to increase defence cooperation and scientific collaboration and work for the welfare of the poor. The Indian PM must have politely refused to commit Indian Army in Afghanistan after the US soldiers leave in November. It was a good decision. No India prime minister can affort to send troops to Afghanisthan. On the positive side, Modi has to be complimented for the candor he exhibited in the way he reacted to various proposals and suggestions. He kept on talking about the civil nuclear agreement and the lack of progress in taking forward the agreement. He expressed his view on WTO saying that India is not against it but it has some concerns which have to be addressed by the international community if India has to fall in line as the US wishes. He paraded his confidence when he kept 41 US Congressmen waiting on the stage at Madison Square Garden for his arrival. He appeared to be sober, sure of himself and warm. He dealt with Obama on equal footing standing shoulder to shoulder. Overall, the headline grabbing tour went off well. The joint editorial written for Washington Post by Obama and Modi suggested that the world’s oldest and the largest democracies have a responsibility to make the world a safe place to live happily.
Modi would be plunging in Swatch Bharat campaign on Gandhi Jayanti and then the election campaign in Maharashtra and Haryana.