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‘Thank you, America’, PM Modi tells new converts

Modi left for home after a four-and-a-half day US tour a very satisfied man, pleased with what he is taking home, and the impact he has had on Americans. Modi’s US trip high on optics, low on substance

india Updated: Oct 02, 2014 10:49 IST
Yashwant Raj
US-President-Barack-Obama-welcomes-Prime-Minister-Narendra-Modi-at-the-dinner-hosted-in-his-honour-at-the-White-House-in-Washington-PTI-Photo
US-President-Barack-Obama-welcomes-Prime-Minister-Narendra-Modi-at-the-dinner-hosted-in-his-honour-at-the-White-House-in-Washington-PTI-Photo

Vivek Wadhwa, a Silicon Valley tech-thinker, came to DC somewhat leery of the hype around Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He left Tuesday evening a complete convert.

“I was… blown away with Modi’s humour and confidence,” Wadhwa said after the state department luncheon by Joe Biden and John Kerry for the Prime Minister.

“I talked to Modi only very briefly, though. But he won me over... I was on the fence until today.”

Modi left for home after a four-and-a-half day US tour a very satisfied man, pleased with what he is taking home, and the impact he has had on Americans.

Pete Sessions, chairman of the House ethics committee, was absolutely charmed. He said Modi reminded him of President Ronald Reagan, the nearest thing to God to Republicans.

Read:Narendra Modi’s US trip high on optics, low on substance

“I had a very successful tour,” Modi told an audience at his last stop, an event hosted by the USIBC, from where he was to head straight to the airport for his flight home.

“Thank you, America,” he said, waving to the audience.

But were there milestone achievements or major announcements? There were no investment packages of the kind Modi brought from Japan or the one Xi Jinping brought.

“No,” said Michael Kugleman of Wilson Center, “But we shouldn’t have expected any. For Obama and Modi, the visit was all about the basics: getting to know each other, committing to get the relationship back on track, and promising to push toward even greater cooperation.”

One think-tanker differed: “In terms of optics it was a huge success, but are we to overlook the absence of deliverables — packages.” He said he would hold his verdict for now.

Here is a quick re-cap of Modi’s visit:

Day 1, September 26: A quiet evening at the hotel.

Day 2, September 27: After his maiden speech at UNGA, diplomats, UN staffers and three Prime Ministers queue up to greet him backstage. X-Men star Hugh Jackman introduces him at the Global Citizens festival. The prime minister speaks in English, connects with a largely American audience, all young.

Day 3, September 28: He gets a rockstar reception from the Indian American community at Madison Square Garden, with over 30 US lawmakers present.

Day 4, September 29: Seventeen of the world’s most powerful business leaders meet him in his suite — including Lloyd Blankfein, Jeff Imelt, Henry Kravis, Indra Nooyi.

He ends the day in DC, with a quiet dinner with President Barack Obama, and aides. They connect. Modi said later “we have similar interests” and “our wavelengths matched”.

Day 5, September 30: India-US formal bilateral meeting goes on for two hours, after which Obama accompanies Modi to the memorial of Martin Luther King.

That was noted. Experts found a renewed commitment by the two countries to the relationship. For Teresita Schaffer, the timing itself was a significant achievement.

She said the US normally never agrees to bilateral summits in DC during the UNGA. “If they agree to one there will be requests for more,” she said, “which they cannot turn down.”

Read: Modi returns home after hectic US visit

Obama took that chance, she added, and that points to something that had been missing earlier. Modi, too, took a chance, said Kugleman. He could have declined the invitation.

“Instead, he accepted it and took full advantage of his time in Washington. This is a strong signal of his intention to move beyond the past and to get this relationship back on track.”

And that looks like Mission Accomplished.

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