In Houston, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to sell the India story by leveraging the country’s strengths. And the PM addressed different actors and audiences. Here are his key focus areas:
Objective: India recognises that the US President, irrespective of moral judgments of his policy positions, controls the levers of power. The aim was to bring back ties with US on an even keel, and neutralise any support he may offer to Pakistan.
Message: Modi praised Trump’s leadership, commitment to US, economic record, negotiating skills and stand on terror. And offered this public support in front of a huge Indian-American constituency, where Trump seeks to make inroads.
Obiective: Islamabad was seeking to paint India in a corner, portray it as Fascist, internationalise Jammu and Kashmir. Modi’s aim was to show to Pakistan that it was instead India which commanded international support, particularly that of the US.
Message: By unequivocally defending the decision on Article 370, linking it to terrorism, calling for a “decisive battle against terrorism, tracing both 9/11 and 26/11 to a common source, and then hailing Trump as a leader committed to fighting terrorism – soon after he had spoken of “radical Islamic terrorism” – Modi was telling Pakistan that New Delhi and Washington were on the same page. And its hopes of international support were misplaced.
US DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS CONCERNED WITH HUMAN RIGHTS, LIBERAL INTELLECTUAL ECOSYSTEM AND WESTERN MEDIA
Objective: Aware of a growing narrative that India was turning authoritarian and majoritarian, Modi’s aim was to allay such apprehensions and reach out to skeptics and critics.
Message: The PM focused on India’s remarkable diversity in terms of religions, traditions, languages, regions. He spoke of India’s democratic strength, and recent elections which saw a remarkably high turnout. His reference to the government’s welfare schemes for the poor was an attempt to showcase an India that cared for its least privileged, and was moving towards and inclusive and egalitarian society.
Objective: There have been concerns about India’s economic slowdown and trajectory. Trade has been an irritant. Modi’s aim was to show that India was committed to reforms and embracing business.
Message: Modi spoke of India as a modernising country – a country which was leveraging technology, where cheap data was available to hundreds of millions of people; where the government was easing conditions for doing business, cutting red tape, slashing corporate taxes, and which had robust growth, increased investments, and was ready to embrace the world.
Objective: Consolidate support for himself personally, for India as a whole, and showcase the power of the diaspora to the US.
Message: By his mere presence and the fact that Trump joined him for the rally, Modi won half the battle and gave Indian-Americans a sense of pride. By referring to their contribution to both US and India and in deepening bonds between the two countries, he sought to highlight the people-to-people linkage and gave them a sense of power.
DOMESTIC AUDIENCE BACK HOME
Obiective: Modi’s aim was to show to Indians glued to their television sets the power of Indian diplomacy, its rise on the global stage, and showcase his own role in heralding this change.
Message: By merely being with Trump as an equal on the stage, narrating his government’s achievements; his strong comments on Kashmir and Pakistan: and by showcasing India as a country in the midst of positive change, being applauded in an international setting, Modi was encouraging the perception that India had truly arrived on the world stage.
Source: Hindustan Times/Delhi 24 September 2019