Narendra Modi
File photo of PM Narendra Modi speaking at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York in September | Bess Adler | Bloomberg
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will return home this weekend after delivering his speech at the UN’s 74th General Assembly session Friday. It’s been a long week and Modi has reasons to be satisfied with his performance in America, where he has met political leaders from across the globe – from US President Donald Trump to Iranian supremo Hassan Rouhani.

Back home, we are suitably chuffed that Trump compared Modi to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, making several Indians turn to Google with the query “who was Elvis Presley?”.

You might ask why Indians care so much about Modi being accepted in the West, and whether it’s the East India Company question all over again. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh once put it cruelly, but succinctly, describing India’s love-hate relationship with the all-powerful US. “Yankee go home. But take me with you,” he wrote in 1999.


Also read: UN General Assembly shows a New India, and world gets to see Modilateralism


Taming the critics within

Over breakfast with top American CEOs this week, Modi asked the executives to come invest in India, which he pitched as the ‘only destination’. Indulging in his penchant for acronyms, Modi said that India’s attractiveness as an investment destination is due to the “four Ds: Democracy, Demography, Demand & Decisiveness.” One wonders what the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the RSS’ economic affiliate determined to protect Indian business from foreign monsters, must be thinking.

Except that the SJM’s co-convenor Ashwani Mahajan too was in New York this week, meeting e-commerce players, investors et al, vociferously denying that the SJM was against FDI.

But Mahajan gave the game away when he was forced to ask Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Twitter why India has agreed to drop technology transfer requirements as a precondition to becoming a member of the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Mahajan described it as “a meek surrender.”

For the moment, though, Modi is on top. The RSS seems to be on board with the plan to open up the economy, realising that it must go along with the man who doesn’t brook any domestic opposition. The RSS knows Modi is that one big ticket who will help expand their ideology across the country.

Dumping the likes of Ashwani Mahajan who went hammer and tongs against Walmart in 2018 or against Monsanto, the producer of genetically-modified Bt cotton seed, in 2017 is a small price to pay for the stagnating economy. Especially when both the BJP and the RSS are fully aware that if anything could hurt the government, it will be the lack of money in people’s pockets – not Rahul Gandhi or Sharad Pawar or Mamata Banerjee.


Also read: Price hike, joblessness, slow economy. Yet, it’s advantage BJP in Maharashtra & Haryana


The Kashmir conundrum

Modi’s other challenge, when he returns home this weekend, will be Kashmir. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has returned to the besieged Valley and is expected to camp there for a few days. There are attempts to usher in a second rung of leaders – some Kashmiris have been brought to Delhi and have met Home minister Amit Shah, among other leaders.

But what does the Modi government do about MP Farooq Abdullah as well as former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah who have been under house arrest along with several others since 5 August? How do both Delhi and Kashmir’s political mainstream save face and achieve a compromise?

Modi’s tumultuous evening in Houston, Texas will go down as one of the most successful visits abroad by an Indian prime minister. But now comes the hard part. Senior US officials have told the press that Modi has outlined a vision for Kashmir’s return to normalcy, as well as the return of political mainstream in the new Union Territory. The US is believed to looking forward to Modi implementing his plans.

Certainly, Trump feels for Modi-who-is-Elvis. How many world leaders can come to America and out-Trump Trump himself? But when the US president comes down to earth, he knows he must assuage Imran Khan too. After all, the Pakistani prime minister owns the key to stability in election-bound Afghanistan – something Khan had admitted to at a meeting of the American think tank Council on Foreign Relations in New York this week.

Modi gets an A-grade for his trip to America this week. He didn’t fight shy of meeting the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani within days of meeting the latter’s mortal enemy, Donald Trump. In fact, he met Trump twice in the space of two days.

Now, if only… That plaintive bleat of Indians seeking a middle ground on Kashmir, actions on the slowing economy and over the treatment of minorities is as old as 2014. Modi isn’t about to listen to their ideas of India. He has his own.

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9 Comments Share Your Views

9 COMMENTS

  1. On the point of success of Howdy Modi, i believe its benefits are mainly on the side of domestic constituency but stronger personal chemistry between two leaders helps in negotiations between two countries to some extent. This does not mean that Trump will do anything beyond USA’s strategic, political and diplomatic interests. As Indians, we appreciate and deeply admire Modi’s confidence and the great show he put up in Houston. This was unprecedented and particularly praiseworthy for a person who is not educated abroad or from a great family background or specifically, unlike Nehru, Indira or MMS. He is truly emerging as a world statesman, particularly after his massive victory in 2019 and the ease with which he is conducting himself on the world stage. However, we should keep success of Howdy Modi in the context and do not go overboard in our expectations from USA. USA will help India when India acts or seen to be acting in USA’s interests. Offer them our troops in Afghanistan via POK and they will dump Pak to get you POK!

  2. A much better piece from Jyoti this time. She is bang on when she points out that RSS will back Modi for foreign investment as this will help achieve faster growth and employment opportunities. In fact, every economic crisis is a good political opportunity to discard old macro economic management ideas and introduce newer ones. Reduction in corporate taxes done just before Modi’s USA visit was clearly done to ensure that his meeting with CEOs in Texas will be successful. Modi should use this opportunity to do many more economic reforms without going back on social spending. That will ensure his political constituency is safely behind him and yet economy benefits from such reforms and takes us to 5 trillion USD threshold. On Kashmir, things will settle down in due course and once government is sure that terrorism across the border is under control, relaxation in curfew and freeing of political prisoners will take place. We are only focusing on just four districts of the J&K, forgetting that Ladakh and most of Jammu is fine. For media , this can be an easy option to keep banging the government but in the overall picture, it does not matter much.

  3. Media should avoid extreme and over-the-top conclusions such “out-Trumped” or ‘failure’ etc. International diplomacy and geo-political strategy overlap to a large extent especially when nations have global ambitions. And strategy is dynamic, it is emergent. Smart nations remain flexible and agile to respond to changing dynamics. What Modi has exhibited is BIG confidence and much less diffidence than his predecessors, very similar to Nehru and Indira. He has shown that India can hold its fort, something that the Western civilisation understands and appreciates. However, what seems to be lacking is a coherent game plan based on potential scenarios. It is still a wait and watch situation. Fortunately, India is not China and is unlikely to pulverise its population. On the other hand, this could be a weakness when dealing with any imminent unrest fuelled by neighbours. It will be foolish to underestimate Pakistan, which is a wily, deceptive and rouge member of the International community. It is also a shameless nation that is not shy of crying in front of bigger powers.

    • Picture Prime Minister Indira Gandhi striding into the Nixon – Kissinger White House. Durga was never diffident. More like a a Royal Bengal tigress in her prime. 2. Read yesterday that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, on two visits in 1949 and 1961, was received at the airport by POTUS. That honour has never been repeated.

      • If you are countering my comment then your comprehension is weak, and if you are suggesting this to me, I can say with confidence that you just love to read your flowery language published on this news website while thinking that you are the wisest reader. Your understanding is superficial and your opinions biased. Please take this as my final assessment based on all your comments in the past few months.

      • POTUS also received Pakistani dictator Ayub Khan at the airport during latter’s visit to the US. It was a different world back then, US was competing for influence with the USSR. Charming the leaders of newly independent, poor and impressionable countries was the priority. USSR did the same with Indira and Nehru.

  4. At least on the economy, a clear headed choice will have to be made between ideology and concrete national achievements. As a logical corollary, that will have to extend to the sphere of education as well, for that is the most basic building block for economic growth. Consider what India earns from remittances and the software / IT industry. Whether social harmony too is an imperative is a matter of judgment. The effort to foreground ideology so much has not so far yielded succulent fruit.

  5. Not just Afghanistan. The US and Prince MbS have requested PM Imran Khan to broker peace with Iran. It has given a foretaste of its destructive potential by the attack on Saudi oil assets. For all practical purposes, Donald Trump is now a lame duck President. His indiscretion with the Ukrainian President should serve as a reminder of the need to erect firewalls between global diplomacy in pursuit of the national interest and pursuit of personal political power.

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