Modi at US: What Was Different this Time?

Written by: Pathikrit Payne
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Modi at US: What Was Different this Time?
New Delhi, Sept 30: Perhaps it happens once in several decades that the head of one nation gets to speak to his diaspora in another nation in a thunderous environment and connect with them in such a manner as if he is speaking to them in his own country.

Modi's Madison Square program where he enthralled 18,000 Indians in the venue and perhaps several millions beyond the venue was one such rare occasion. It is difficult to remember or fathom as to when was the last time there was such frenzy among the Indian diaspora to meet an Indian Prime Minister or President during his visit in that country.

Narendra Modi's event at Madison Square was not just beamed live in India but across several states of US as well. And if the cynics had thought that the Modi frenzy would be over with the election, they were in for a rude shock.

Connecting to India beyond Geographical India

Instead of any diminishing quotient, he has successfully intrigued and enthralled even those who had doubted him in the past. On last Sunday, more than 40,000 NRIs had sought ticket at the venue but only 18,000 were lucky enough to be inside. To make sure that those who did not get a chance to be inside don't feel left out, live beaming of the events happened on the giant screen on Times Square.

For long NRIs have always been considered as the prodigal children who had left for the greener pastures. Not that the nation never took pride in their giant strides. Every time an NRI became the CEO of a major US MNC, the India media gave the customary due share of accolades. Yet somewhere some fault-lines did remain. Once settled abroad, the hassles of getting a visa or overstaying had its own hassles and that was just one of the many fault-lines. That did hurt.

Yet the NRI community, more than 20 million in size and one of the wealthiest in the world with over a trillion dollar in net wealth, always did their bit when the need came. Apart from the money being donated to the alma mater, mostly the IITs, angel investors like the Vinod Khosla founded The Indus Entrepreneurs or TiE did play a critical role in igniting seeds of entrepreneurship among the new generations and funding them when no one else did.

Of course one can also not forget the stellar role the NRI community played in terms of bolstering India's foreign exchange reserve right in the aftermath of the Pokhran Nuclear test in 1998 when the NRI community invested in huge numbers in the Resurgent India Bond of Government of India to boost up India's foreign exchange by several billion dollars to counter US imposed sanctions. One can also not forget the remittance that expatriates send back home every year which was $70 billion last year.

Breaking the barriers between resident and non resident Indians

What Modi initiated yesterday was bridging some of the pertinent and thorny gaps and integrating the resident and non resident Indians into one great Indian community working for the betterment of India. And it is for sure that this would just not be restricted to NRIs settled in US alone. Modi's speech to the NRI community was aimed at reaching out far and wide to NRIs across the world who can play the role of a key catalyst in channelizing investments towards India.

A National Movement called Development

Yet the more amazing part of his rendezvous at Madison Square is the manner in which successfully metamorphosed his mission for development into a national mission or a national movement wherein everyone would have a role to play and where everyone's role in important.

His honest acceptance that there is a limit to how much the government can do for the development of a nation unless there is a shared partnership with people at large was probably the first time when someone at the helm of affairs of India has attempted to look at people as a very key contributing factor for real time development of the nation. Here was the first time when a prime minister of India was not promising but asking people to join hands with government to make the mission of development come true.

Modi's speech at Madison Square was not towards Non Resident Indians but plain and simply to Indians. He has with amazing dexterity removed the all the superficial distinctions and attempted to blend Indian diaspora across the world into one common and united race working towards the same mission of uniformly developing India.

The euphoria and the frenzy among the Indian community in USA might get replicated everywhere Modi would henceforth go. For long the NRI communities have wanted to contribute more than just the remittance being sent home every year. Sadly there was never an institutionalized mechanism to absorb their ideas, experience, expertise and even labor. Modi has ignited the passion of going back or doing more among many of them. Now hopefully the institutional mechanism would be created as well.

At the UN-A Strong, Dignified and an Uncompromising Stand

If Modi's amazing personal touch has been able to invigorate and enthuse the NRIs to do their best for Modi's" National Movement' of development then it was a different Modi at the United Nations General Assembly where in spite of provocations by Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, he maintained his composure and made it clear that mere raising the issue in global forum would not solve it unless Pakistan creates the right kind of environment to solve issues.

Even when there were expectations that Modi would give a vitriolic reply to Nawaz Sharif's comments on Kashmir the previous day, he in the most dispassionate manner and with the air of a big brother scoffed it off and told bluntly that India is willing to talk only if the right kind of environment is created and that harboring terrorism and talk on peace cannot happen at the same time.

Modi's striking and fiercely honest remark about the diminishing relevance of United Nations might have ruffled many a feather but also made it clear that this India under his leadership would not be scared of uttering the bare truth. It is a reality that United Nations, in spite of the finest of the concepts with which it was created has now become redundant organization purely because of its lame duck approach. It is a known fact how some countries simply remote control UN.

Modi's strong message that unless UN is reformed it would lose its relevance or that nothing is stranger than the ridiculous concept of good terrorism and bad terrorism were striking jibes at the major powers of the world who wield incredible amount of clout in UN.

The jibe of good terrorism and bad terrorism was not just at Pakistan for its double standard on the issue of fighting Tehreek e Taliban while nurturing Lashkar e Taiba, but also at countries like US perhaps who had generously funded Syrian rebels and have tried to distinguish between good and bad Taliban as per convenience.

Impact only in the long term

The contours of Modi's long term foreign policy and the clear distinction from the past is gradually getting prominent. However, even though certain sections might feel impatient, the result of all this in terms of significant amount of investments flowing into India as well as greater clout of India in global affairs, would take time to fructify. But no one can doubt that Modi has already announced the emergence of a new India and the world has no option but to accept it.

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