Modi’s diplomatic visit started from June 4 has covered five countries: Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, the US and Mexico. With an average of nine engagements in each day, this trip has shown unique dynamism in diplomacy
Dilip Chaware, US
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made every Bharatiya feel proud when he concluded his historic speech before US Congress amidst prolonged applause on June 8. No other Bharatiya leader has been able to achieve such thunderous response in the US.
On 8 June, Shri Modi unequivocally condemned terrorism without even once using the word Islam but conveying his message forcefully. Though five Bharatiya Prime Ministers have addressed US Congress (the US Parliament) before him, the 48-minute address by Narendra Modi will be remembered by the generations to come for the repeated clapping and nearly a dozen standing ovations he received.
Features of joint statement
On June 7, the first day of Modi’s US visit, India and the United States issued a 50-paragraph Joint Statement on bilateral cooperation at the end of talks between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A much-maligned leader who was denied a diplomatic visa by the US only a few years ago due to a sustained smear campaign against him, PM Modi made his presence felt from the moment he stepped on US soil. His warm interaction with US President Barack Obama and the bilateral talks with the US made American media change its tune in just two days. For instance, The New York Times was highly critical of Modi before his arrival in the US. However, it became extremely cautious and often laudatory of the PM immediately during and after Modi’s tour.
PM Modi paid homage at Arlington, the national cemetery, which he called “the final resting place of many brave soldiers of this great land.” This gesture touched millions of hearts in America. In his speech, he dwelt on the growing partnership between India and the US and curbing terrorism. Analysts did not fail to notice that he used the word ‘religion’ only once and that, too, without mentioning any religion by name.
Referring to the ties with the US, PM Modi said, “Connecting our two nations is a dynamic bridge of three million Indian Americans (standing ovation). Today they are among your best CEOs, academics, astronauts, doctors, even spelling bee champions (standing ovation). They are your strength. They are also the pride of India. They symbolise the best of both our societies.”
Modi sent a clear message that the US shall have to recognise Bharat’s role in the coming decade in world affairs. He also indicated that Bharat was eager to open up a new chapter in its relations with the US, no matter what the outcome of the Presidential election 2016 is.
PM Modi referred to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, B R Ambedkar and Swami Vivekananda in his speech. It was his effort to present Bharat’s diversity and multiculturalism as a mirror to the present controversy in the US over the migrants, especially Mexicans. This implicit message was received very well and it was reflected in the affection with which he was received in Mexico hours later. With this approach, Modi endeared himself to Congress members smoothly. He repeatedly conveyed the message that India and US are natural allies, especially as both are battling the menace of terrorism.
Modi interacts with think-tanks in USA
As part of his US visit, on June 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an interaction with the heads of think tanks which included the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at Blair House in Washington. Reportedly, perspectives on a wide range of geo political issues were discussed during the meeting.
Modi had astounded the Americans during his previous visit when he addressed an estimated 70,000 cheering Bharatiyas at Madison Garden in New York. In the US, politicians are not large crowd pullers, especially compared with those from the world of glamour and sports. Hence, the fantastic turnout for his public meeting had left Americans thunderstruck. He has now crowned the admiration coming his way through his address, which has highlighted his mastery of global developments and his deep insight of Bharat’s increasing importance.
US returns 200 artefacts to India
The US returned more than 200 ancient artefacts to India at a ceremony held at the Blair House in Washington. It has been estimated that the stolen artefacts worth over $100 million. The function was attended by Prime Minister Naredndra Modi and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “On behalf of President Obama, it is my great privilege to return these marvelous objects to the people of India,” Lynch said.
Although the principal theme of Modi’s speech was on growing Bharat-US relations, he didn’t let go of the opportunity to warn the US about terrorism. He referred indirectly to Pakistan by mentioning the ‘terrorism in our neighbourhood’ while appealing to the US Congress to deal with the threat in an unsparing manner. Another round of clapping followed when he pointedly thanked the US Congress for its support of Bharat after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai by Pakistani jihadis.
Modi’s 2016 visit to the US stands out for many reasons. Primarily, it has projected him as a world statesman but the larger gain for Bharat is that the PM has liaised with the US as an ally and not as a favour-seeker. He has asked for more US investments but has not forgotten to remind America that over three million Bharatiya-origin professionals have been contributing to its growth and progress.
Modi is the first PM who is born in free Bharat. He does not belong to the elite that has been educated abroad. Incidentally, he spoke directly to the Congress members. This eyeball-to-eyeball contact was one reason why his address was received so well. His speech had vigour, emotion and confidence. While earlier PMs, with the exception of Atal Behari Vajpayee, had invariably made some demands from the US, Modi is the first PM who has offered something to the US. This is a historic departure and has made every true Bharatiya proud, whether in Bharat or abroad.
Modi’s presence in the US Congress was strikingly in contrast with Bharat’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru, who had addressed the Congress 67 years ago. Nehru wanted to show the world that he was a world leader in his right as a founder of the non-alignment movement. The US did not take kindly to this claim since Bharat under Nehru was asking for help in terms of fiscal loans and food grains but was not offering anything in return. Nehru adopted the Soviet model of development under the 5-year plan doctrine, indicating his preference. This position changed drastically when China attacked Bharat and the US, not the Soviets, rushed to help Bharat. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi herself approached the US for shipments of food and loans to tide over many crises Bharat faced. Even Rajiv Gandhi failed to impress Americans. Atal Behari Vajpayee made a difference when he stood up to world pressure and went ahead with the nuclear programme of Bharat. Dr Manmohan Singh always read out from prepared speeches and his lack of mandate back home constantly reflected in his attitude. It was finally finished when Rahul Gandhi threw an ordinance issued by the UPA government in waste paper basket. Against this background, Modi has presented a completely different picture.
PM Modi has ended the pretence of Bharat being non-aligned. He has exhibited eagerness to cement existing friendships and his wish to form new ones, like during his Mexico visit. During the Nehru regime, the US was pushed closer to Pakistan on account of his policies. Modi has turned the tide and Pakistan is now almost shunned by the US. In short, Modi is making successful effort to expand Bharat’s international presence and horizons.
No wonder, US Congress members mobbed Modi for his signature after the historic speech. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan described Modi's address as “insightful”. He said, “It was an honour to host Prime Minister Modi at the Capitol today. He spoke eloquently about the importance of a strong US-India relationship to promoting peace and freedom around the globe.”
Modi had visited Afghanistan on the first leg of his five nation tour, on June 4, before arriving in the US. He said backing a stronger India to benefit the US cause in Asia was vital. However, he avoided any direction mention of China. This stand is welcomed by both major political parties in the US. It has gladdened the supporters of Donald Trump, who has been speaking against China but has stopped criticising Bharat of late. He inaugurated Afghan-India Friendship Dam in Herat, previously known as Salma Dam, which was rebuilt with India’s aid. It is considered as the largest development initiative of India in Afghanistan. Delivering his inaugural speech, Prime Minister said, “We want to see your democracy strike deep roots; your people unite; and, your economy prospers”. He said that the dam has not been built by bricks and mortar, but by the faith of our friendship and the valour of Afghans and Indians. The $290-million dam will provide up to 42 MW power to Afghanistan’s industrial hub and also irrigate regions around Herat that have been ravaged by a 15-year drought. As a true honour to the friendly neighbourhood, Afghanistan conferred Modi with the nation’s highest civilian honour, the Amir Amanullah Khan Award.
During his visit to Qatar on the same day, Modi had a roundtable discussion with Qatari Minister of Commerce Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani and business leaders. He briefed them about the changing business environment in India and wooed Qatari businessmen to boost up their investment in India. On the second day of his visit to Qatar, he met Indian workers at a labour camp in Doha and shared meals with them. In an interacting session with the labourers, he enquired about their health problems and living conditions. As a big relief to more than 600,000 Indians work in the country, Qatar has reassured India that labor reforms will improve the conditions of Indian migrants in a joint government statement. The joint government statement also said that PM Modi discussed the plight of Indian workers with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.
When the Prime Minister landed in Geneva on June 5, the prime goal of his Switzerland visit was to earn the support of the Swiss government for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Supporting India’s entry into NSG, the President of the Swiss Confederation Johann Schneider-Ammann said, “We promised India support in its efforts to become a member of this group, the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The process has started and we will certainly contribute actively”. In a positive gesture to the support extended by the Swiss Government, Modi said that Switzerland and India will support each other’s bid for non-permanent membership at the UN Security Council. Mexico also extended their support to India’s membership to NSG. “Mexico recognises India’s interest in joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group…As a country, we have a positive and constructive backing for this.” Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto said after his meeting with Modi. In a rare gesture, Mexican President drove Prime Minister Narendra Modi to a Mexican vegetarian fare to have dinner.
Both the countries issued a joint statement which said the two leaders recognised the opportunities to define the path of the “India-Mexico Privileged Partnership for the 21st Century” to promote growth of bilateral ties and cooperation in global issues. The two leaders pledged to continue promoting the shared goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation as solutions with multilateral perspective, as well as to continue promoting cooperation on international security issues.
This landmark foreign visit of Narendra Modi has been marked as a triumph in the realm of diplomacy not only for one of his well articulated and stunning speech delivered at Capitol Hill but also for his dynamic diplomatic skill which was evident in his endeavours ranging from the inaugural speech of Afghan-Indian Dam delivered at Afghanistan, to the interactions with Indian workers in Qatar, to the bringing back of Indian antiques from US and to the prestigious entry to the Missile Technology Control Regime. With all these spectacular achievements, Modi’s dynamic diplomacy has entered into a new phase after scripting another successful chapter in his efforts to restore India’s glory. n