PM Returned With Much More Than 'Kem Chho'

Published: October 02, 2014 17:37 IST
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(Nalin S Kohli is spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Director of the party's Public Policy Research Centre. He is also a lawyer and has extensive experience in media and education.)

A common though not entirely incorrect comment about Indians in general is that we are a race with a natural penchant for commenting and professing advice at all times. Some, in fact, lament that in terms of proportions, this talent for comment is a national intellectual epidemic.

It should therefore come as no surprise that even as the Prime Minister returns from the US after a packed five-day visit, the inevitable deprecating commentary on what has been achieved in real terms should take centre-stage.

However, in this urge to pronounce immediate commentarial verdict, the subtext of achievement of the US visit is undermined. That's what has happened in his rather eloquently worded article "Modi ji Got Little More than 'Kem Chho' in Washington" by Dr Shashi Tharoor.

What actually needed to be highlighted upfront is somewhat unobtrusively mentioned in the penultimate eleventh paragraph, where Mr Tharoor tentatively underplays an important development of Prime Minister Modi's trip. "By going to the US capital," Dr Tharoor says, "Mr Modi administered a necessary corrective to the negative image many American opinion-makers had had of him. He achieved the basic objective of introducing himself to those who had not been his friends, and to showing to American politicians and business leaders that he is a man they can do business with". (Read Dr Shashi Tharoor's article here)

That, perhaps, is the biggest achievement of the entire visit! For over a decade, a sustained vilification campaign projected Mr Modi as a highly-divisive leader which earned him the distinction of becoming the first and only democratically elected Chief Minister of a state to be denied a visa by the US administration. Ironically, the then Government of India, rather than correct this anomaly, chose to derive quiet satisfaction at this unfortunate development. 

It is the correction of this diplomatic anomaly that needs to be celebrated, as it unequivocally affirms the past is well behind both nations and they can now plan the path ahead - a path with enormous potential for a vastly mutual beneficial economic and strategic partnership. Should not the course correction and a positive reset in the relationship between the two most important democracies be enough cause for us to celebrate? 

An equally important achievement is that beyond the pleasing optics and sound-bytes, Prime Minister Modi, within four months of hectic and engaged initiatives, is driving home the message that the India story is getting back on track. This again in itself is sufficient cause for celebration for the India story was unfortunately seen as tottering by many. And global business leaders, who had all but written off the potential of investing is India, are now willing to relook the possibilities within India.

Of course, much needs to be done to convert positive sentiment into reality, as we all realise, but in the absence of taking the first step in the right direction, can the journey ahead be undertaken at all?

It would simultaneously be incorrect to undermine and even ridicule Prime Minister Modi's rather engaged and personalised style of dealing with global  leaders. In the countries he has dealt with so far - Nepal, Bhutan, Japan, China and the United States - Mr Modi has made an extra effort to forge a working relationship with his counterpart based on personal touch and warmth. To even remotely suggest that such an approach can be counter-productive is also unfair to our temperament as a hospitable people.

In all fairness, Dr Tharoor stands apart from the routine ramble of daily partisan pronouncements from regular Congress spokespersons, who consistently deride anything and everything that Mr Narendra Modi to do.

Yet, what cannot be understated is this - Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not only erased the blip in the India-US story, but has also won over the hearts of America's most influential diaspora community.

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