The media loves hyperbole, to sensationalise. So much so that today sensationalism is a part of the way the media operates. Add to this a government that does not miss an opportunity to blow its own trumpet, what we have is a deadly cocktail of 'Breaking News' and headlines that scream 'For the first time in....', 'Never before....', etc.
In this vein, it was surprising (though not all that much) to see screeching headlines on news websites and news channels that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Canada was the 'first by an Indian PM in 42 years'. So what about then PM Manmohan Singh's 2010 visit to Canada? Was that an illusion? Was the public mislead? Was that a 3D holographic display? (No that's Modi's speciality) Or was it plain coalition compulsion? (Never mind if it does not fit in here. Whenever the Singh is mentioned, 'coalition compulsions' is an add-on).
On close reading, buried in the fine print was the caveat: Modi is the first PM in 42 years on a 'bilateral' visit. Singh was in Canada for a G20 Summit in 2010.
PM Modi is flying East to West and West to East with the mission to build (or rebuild) India's image at the international stage. This will help increase investor confidence in our nation and will boost GDP, etc.
So what can the media do to give a little fillip? In these days of intense competition, don't expect the media to play it straight. As mentioned earlier, hyperbole and sensationalism will flow unabated.
So, here's a list of countries that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should visit so that the media can have a field day with banner headlines like 'Modi creates history....', 'Modi first Indian PM to set foot on...', etc. The devil, rest assured, will be in the detail.
Modi could consider visiting:
Peru: no Indian PM has visited the Latin American paradise. Given that the NDA is focusing on ancient history, Peru, with the Machu Picchu and the Inca civilisation, will be a supermarket of past glory.
Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi: This could be part of the NDA's Africa plan. The Ugandan president visited India as recently as 2011 and the vice-president in 2013. IK Gujral was the last PM to visit the nation in 1997. Rwandan Prime Minister Bernard Makuza participated in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in January, 2011 but no Indian PM has visited Rwanda. Burundi president visited India in 2012 and its vice-president in 2013--Modi could be the first Indian PM to visit the landlocked nation.
Palestine: India-Palestine ties are decades--old but till date no Indian PM has visited Palestine. Late Palestine President Yasser Arafat and current President Mahmoud Abbas have visited India several times but LK Advani, as Union home minister, was the last high-profile minister to visit in 2000.
Israel: If Palestine is mentioned, can Israel be far behind. Ariel Sharon, while he was the prime minister, visited New Delhi in 2003. Union home minister Rajnath Singh visited Israel last year but, here again, Modi could be the first PM to visit this strong ally India has in the region.
Modi could also consider visiting New Zealand. Rajiv Gandhi was the last prime minister to visit the country, that too in distant 1986. A headline, like, "Modi first Indian PM to visit New Zealand in three decades' will look impressive.
PM Modi should take these suggestions seriously - it'll be a win-win for both the government and the media. The government will further India's foreign policy to places 'no government in Delhi has dared to go' and the media will get its chance to sensationalise.
And.....if Modi takes our suggestions, trust us to call it 'HT Impact'.
(The views expressed are personal. The author tweets as @vijucherian.)