Changing Perceptions: Modi’s US Visit

Yesterday, while watching on TV the powerful address of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United Nations General Assembly, my mind went into the past.

It went back into time when I first heard with shock that the US government had denied him a visa.

That was 2005. Barely nine years ago. And Modi was no small-man then. He was the Chief Minister of India’s Gujarat State.

But, with allegations of his involvement in the communal riots of Gujarat, US had continued to deny him a visa for many years.

Look now, at how times change.

Today, he stands there as the Prime Minister of the largest democracy of the world.

Can anyone, now, disregard the elected head of India, which has 17.5% of the world population; with a size, second only to China at a staggering 1.2 billion?

That is why New York’s Madison Square Garden was completely filled yesterday (Sunday) – with over 20,000 people –on seats booked several days in advance.

Earlier on Saturday, at New York’s Central Park, he addressed a crowd of 60,000 – mostly American students – in English. He even surprised the youth by ending his speech in their trendy-lingo: “I salute you… And may the Force be with you.”

So, if there is a wave-of-success that people talk about, I think, he definitely seems to be riding high on that wave now.

This month of September alone can be an amazing example; showing us the range of his success, and also that of India.

On September 3, he wrapped up his visit to Japan after signing-off a staggering $35 billion investment into India over five years – into bullet trains, smart cities, river cleaning and huge infrastructure projects. In 2013, the bilateral trade between the two countries was $15.8 billion.

On September 18, when Chinese President visited Delhi it resulted in a $20 billion investment into India, over five years. In 2013, the total bilateral trade between them was $65.5 billion.

On September 24, India’s announcement of its successful mission to Mars – which at $74 million, he had said in June, is cheaper than the $100 million production-cost of Hollywood’s sci-fi movie ‘Gravity’! – has given him yet another feather in his cap.

No wonder then that some journalists are saying he has gone into US, riding on the tailwind of Mangalyaan (the Indian name for the Mars mission).

If we look therefore, at what happened in September alone, and if we note that he was sworn-in – barely five months ago – on May 26, what else can we do but stand and applaud?

Modi is definitely a man on the move. And a talk with Obama is just one of his 35 meetings with various people and people-groups, on his five-day visit to US that started on Friday.

And it is hoped that his ‘Make in India’ slogan will attract US investment in Indian markets and raise the Indian Rupee that had got battered a lot, last year.

As Modi is said to be fasting during the US visit, he may not eat much when having that private dinner with Obama.

It is said that during the nine days of ‘Navratri’, the Hindu festival, his menu will consist mostly of water, and light food. White house is apparently aware of it.

Anyway, what he eats in US may not be of great concern to India. Because India is anyway feasting on the huge plate of success – of a man who now matters to them.

A man who had struggled much to change perceptions has now succeeded in winning love – both in India and abroad.

And the Force is, quite clearly, with him.