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Modi has set a high benchmark by projecting himself as a transformative leader

comment Updated: Oct 01, 2014 00:36 IST
Hindustan Times
Modi US visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was, at the time of going to press, holding substantive discussions with US President Barack Obama after both had, in the ministry of external affairs’ words, a “cordial and comforting conversation” over dinner on Monday.

India and the US have agreed on a vision statement that promises to pursue peace and prosperity and address a range of global challenges together.

Thorny issues like India’s nuclear liability and retrospective tax legislation, its stance on World Trade Organization talks and intellectual property regimes will be works in progress.

Mr Modi himself conceded that while speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) when he said that India and the US need not agree on every issue.

Mindful of those realities, Mr Modi has devoted his attention to public diplomacy during this visit, in an effort to acquaint the American people and businesses with himself, the ambitions of his government and what they mean for stakeholders in India.

On Monday, Mr Modi spoke to 11 CEOs of leading American corporations and tackled their queries about his reform plans and India’s investment climate.

At the CFR, Mr Modi rehearsed his narrative on India’s growing aspirations, its technological prowess that recently sent a mission to Mars, the need to sustain its new middle class, particularly those who have recently broken out of poverty “and do not want to go back”.

He spoke of the need and the opportunity for others to develop the skills of India’s millions who could be the workforce of the world.

The PM promised an enabling environment for growth that minimised government interference and simplified processes while acknowledging that files sometimes traversed 32 tables before being cleared.

Mr Modi pointed to agriculture, manufacturing and services as key areas critical for India’s future and called for balanced growth in the three sectors.

Specifically, he pointed to the rejuvenation of the Ganga and modernisation of India’s massive railway network as key opportunities. The PM said he would tackle the issue of labour reform as well.

All this may seem fairly obvious to observers familiar with India’s challenges.

But Mr Modi appears alert to the curiosity about him among governments and businesses worldwide and is using such visits to revive interest in India.

Few contest India’s promise as a market or its human resource potential that can significantly shape the global economy. The question has long been whether it had a government that allows its potential to flourish.

Mr Modi has set a high benchmark for himself by declaring that he’s the man for that transformative project.