It is not even eight months since he took over as the Prime Minister of India, but the way Narendra Modi has been making waves, is simply astonishing. The global attention he has drawn is totally unprecedented.
His trips to USA, Japan and Australia, saw him garnering foreign investment that was hitherto unthinkable, and his meetings with the leaders of those nations are renewing and revitalising India’s foreign policy.
His receiving into India, the major heads of state like President Xi Jinping of China and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, gave a fresh new impetus to mutual cooperation, and they are re-establishing and reconstructing socio-economic relations.
And to meet that man in person, once again, last week, was a special joy and a rare privilege.
I was attending the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention, the flagship event of India’s Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) , for the 13th consecutive year.
With the aim of connecting India with its vast overseas diaspora, this PBD is held every year, always during 7-9 January. This year, it was held in the beautiful city of Gandhinagar in Gujarat, the Prime Minister’s home state.
On January 8, there was a lunch invitation – from the Prime Minister himself – for all the previous recipients of the ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Samman’, the highest award given by the Indian government to overseas Indians, and presented by the President of India.
As a former recipient of the award – I was awarded in 2009 – I too had the honour of being a part of this intimate group which enjoyed a short but wonderful time of interaction with Prime Minister Modi.
He talked with us and he laughed with us.
When I mentioned to him that the situation of Indians in the Arabian Gulf is not the same as of those living in the lap of luxury in western societies, he listened with keen interest .
And when I said he should visit Bahrain and the rest of the Gulf, he laughed and said that the opposition is already calling him a ‘pravaasi’ Prime Minister!
He said his many foreign visits earned him the nickname, ‘overseas’ Prime Minister, and that he will not be travelling much now.
However, he will seriously consider visiting the six GCC countries, perhaps, over a three-day period.
On that day, when our lunch meeting with the Prime Minister ended, my mind went back a couple of years, to 2011.
I had first met the honourable Prime Minister of India in 2011 at his house in Ahmedabad, when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. It was when I had received the Vision Foundation Award, and when he had spoken to the awardees.
My friends would recall that, after spending more than one hour with him – and after having seen and read earlier, about the development that Gujarat state had achieved under his leadership – I was so awed and inspired that I kept telling them he would be the Prime Minister one day.
Of course within an year or so after my privilege of meeting him in 2011, he was announced as the Prime Ministerial Candidate of BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) for 2014 elections.
He then won the elections with a massive mandate in May 2014. And well, the rest is history – in the making.
The PBD was followed by the seventh edition of ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, one of the most high profile events ever to be held in India. It was inaugurated by Modi on Jan 11.
I was captivated not only by the inspiring speech he gave to the huge assembly then, but also by the praises the world leaders showered on him for his visionary leadership.
Notable speeches were from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Prime Ministers of Bhutan and Macedonia; and also speaking there were many Industrialists and billionaires from India – including the Ambanis, Birlas, and Adanis, and heads of notable industrial houses in Japan, Australia, USA, and many other countries.
The head of the World Bank said that India can contribute to International community’s dream of eliminating world poverty, under Modi’s leadership.
John Kerry said President Obama is eagerly looking forward to visiting India next week, as the Chief Guest for the Republic Day Celebrations to be held on 26 January in Delhi.
Obama, incidentally, would be the first US President to be the Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day, and also the first sitting US President to visit India twice.
Democracy, demographic dividend and demand are the three Ds making India an ideal destination for investment, he said.
In a short span of seven months, he said, we have been able to change the atmosphere of despair and uncertainty.
“My Government is trying to generate confidence. India’s presence as well as its rich past is being recognised worldwide. Countries are coming forward to work with us,” he said.
“We are changing fast. India is growing fast. India is moving faster than expected. We are ready more than ever before.” Modi affirmed.
With corruption charges on several ministers of the previous government, and with a slowdown in the economic progress the task ahead of him did not seem easy, when he came to the helm of the affairs.
But from the way he is steering the ship, he does not merely ‘seem’ to be the captain in-charge.
He really is.