More than Modi, it's the interviewer Fareed Zakaria who needs more focus
This interview is significant not because it is the first time that Modi spoke to the media after becoming the prime minister and put his thoughts across on issues of international significance particularly to the West ahead of the much talked-about trip to the USA, it is also important from the viewpoint of Fareed Zakaria, whose observation on the Indian prime minister continues to baffle the readers and the audience.
Zakaria, in one of his pieces penned for the Washington Times on Friday, said Modi is a deft leader in international affairs and one who is clever to not get embroiled in controversies by projecting himself as a nationalist figure, something his party and its affiliates aspire for. This observation, Zakaria said, was based on his talks with the Indian prime minister.
The journalist, however, thought Modi was underperforming in fields of reforms that India needs urgently and apprehended that not a bold Modi but a not-bold-enough Modi could make India suffer. He said the leader's honeymoon period was fast coming to an end and the recent bypoll results in key states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and even in his own state Gujarat proved that point.
Modi not India's face, Zakaria had said in 2012
Zakaria's observation is nothing new but what is baffling is the man's dishonest take on the Indian prime minister. In April 2012, the same Zakaria had remarked that forget Modi emerging as a national leader, he was not likely to become a regional leader, i.e., by winning the assembly polls in Gujarat in December that year. About the prospects of the BJP's rise, Zakaria quoted Karl Marx saying: "History repeats itself twice. First time as a tragedy, second time as a farce". He added that Modi could never become the face of India, saying there were more complicated issues that would define India in the next 10-15 years.
Zakaria slammed US denying visa to Modi after his LS poll victory
In May, soon after the results of India's general elections came out, Zakaria was heard criticising the US policy of denying a visa to Modi. He said Washington's stand on this matter was selective, arbitrary and excessive.
So what is Zakaria's actual stand on PM Modi? Does he treat the Indian PM as per the situation or has his stand undergone a genuine change? It is more likely to be the former.
is Zakaria intellectually dishonest?
We may call it an intellectual's dishonesty but Zakaria's current observation on Modi ahead of his trip to the United States is aimed at building up to that high-profile event which will provide a breather to a beleaguered American president who will look for economic and military co-operation with India.
Zakaria's take on Narendra Modi only speaks of an intellectual dishonesty
It is an irony that the same Modi who Zakaria predicted could never become the face of India has ultimately evolved into one and also agreed to give him an interview as the leader of the world's biggest democracy. But the Indian prime minister perhaps did not want to remember what Zakaria said about him while embarking on the mission to make a mark in the world of statesmanship.
Can Zakaria himself be a bit bold on his plagiarism goof-ups?
However, Zakaria continued to make his misleading evaluation of Modi by saying that his not becoming bold could hurt India. Just like the 'Modi can never become India's face' statement, Zakaria again committed a goof-up by making this remark with Modi's less than four months in the PM's office and the ever-changing dynamics of Indian politics, Modi doesn't have to worry so much about it at this moment as Zakaria is projecting it to be.
The Indian-American journalist looks very vulnerable when he passes judgement on Modi and the India which he leads today. Is he over-influenced by his father and late Congress leader Rafiq Zakaria who had even questioned the Muslim identity of former APJ Abdul Kalam, who had a proximity with the previous NDA government?
We are yet to see what Zakaria precisely asked Modi (on the issue of the US handing over David Headley), whether his questions were more bold than Modi's answers. But for an author who has caught the headlines for wrong reasons in the past (read plagiarism) and was also suspended for the same, the definition of boldness requires to be a bit more explained.