And Finally The Twain Has Met…
It was exactly 121 years ago when Narendra Nath, most popularly called as Swami Vivekananda, had visited the Chicago city of the United States of America in 1893, that too, in the month of September for participating in the World Parliament of Religions. And it is also the month of September and more than twelve decades later when one more Narendra, politically correct Narendra Damodardas Modi, has descended on the land of the US. Then in 1890s, the fiery speech of the Swami Vivekananda had succeeded in filling the hearts of the Indians with the intense feelings of jingoism and made substantial progress in rooting out the menace of sectarianism and bigotry from across the world. His address to the American people as “Sisters and Brothers of America” cast a spell on the people and this was nothing less than rendezvous of cultural renaissance and national ethos across the countries in the world. The same story of paradigm shift in socio-political, economic and cultural vistas has made a Himalayan impact on the people of the US with the visit of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi there.
Never before in the history of Indo-US relations has there been an example of so much warm and hearty hospitality as now is has being witnessed with the arrival of Narendra Modi in the US. The visit, apart from the political connotations, has become historically significant in the wake of a host of ups and downs in the US—Modi relations over the years. The tragic story started when the US government heavily condemned Gujarat riots in 2002 and also raised the concern over the security and safety of the minorities in the state. Then came the year of 2005 when Narendra Modi applied for the visa of the US visit which was unfortunately denied on the ground of ‘The American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA)’. It is the US Federal Personal Law which has been enacted to protect and preserve the traditional religious rights and cultural practices of the American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts and Native Hawaiians. And from here only started the damage-control initiative by Modi. He hired APCO Worldwide, an independent communications consultancy, PR firm in the US with its headquarters at Washington D.C for the purpose of image makeover and refining the brand identity across the world. They say that the famous PR firm substantially helped Modi to regain the lost image of the erstwhile Chief Minister of Gujarat. It was the December month of 2012 when the US Business School, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, invited him for video conference on being elected as the Chief Minister of Gujarat consecutively for the third term. But the invitation was cancelled amidst huge protests by rights activities and academicians. But this was not the end of the US odyssey of the keeping one of the promising leaders of the democratic India at bay. In September 2013 the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) declared Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate for the coming Lok Sabha elections. It was the transitional period for Modi when the US administration signallled that he would be granted the visa in the condition of his being elected as the next Prime Minister of India. Came February 2014 and the US officially ended nine-year old boycott when Nancy Powell, the US envoy to India, called on Narendra Modi at Gandhinagar, the state capital of Gujarat. On the 16 May, 2014 BJP won the Lok Sabha elections with an unprecedented and much-needed majority and Narendra Modi was sworn-in as the prime minister of the country. The US President Barack Obama and the Secretary of the State John Kerry were among the firsts who extended their heart-felt congratulations to the newly elected prime minister of the biggest democracy on the earth. The US government moved even one step further and invited Modi to come to Washington in the month of September which was confirmed by Modi later only on June 4. Then came the historic day of the September 26, when the prime minister arrived in the US only to be the guest who was accorded and greeted with warm respect and hospitality of the land, the sort of which was never witnessed in the history of the US. How much bizarre is that the US government respected and recognised the mettle and merit of Narendra Modi only when he rode the power and was at the helm of affairs of the Indian republic when he won the hearts of 1.25 billion population of the country. This was the victory which falsified even the political pundits’ predictions and psephologists’ interpretations.
There is no denying the fact that the historic visit, which was shunned by the host nation by nearly over a decade, unlike his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh, is standing at a crucial stage of strategic relationships between both the counties in the context of a host of prominent areas of economy and bilateral trade, inter alia, agriculture, communications, health, energy and technology. From his address in the UNO’s General Assembly to his rock-star reception at the famous Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan to his meeting with CEOs of giant global companies and banking magnets to his talks with the president Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, Narendra Modi was accorded the hospitality and hearty and warm welcome which was never seen before in the history of the US.
In the post-reformed era, India presently has switched over to fast rising economy across the nations in the world and keeping in view this fact, the visit by Narendra Modi to the US must lay out what we may call the new manoeuvring and immaculate roadmap of the holistic development and strategic bilateral trade relations in their journey to the balanced development. Especially, Modi’s extensive meetings with a host of global CEOs and the top bankers of Wall Street have given a good sign which would ultimately attract huge amount of the foreign direct investment. This move of the prime minister has also succeeded in sending a clear-cut message to the global CEOs and bankers that the government is very much keen about sustaining the reform processes of liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation the sole purpose of which was to create an investment-friendly environment. The huge investment from the big business houses is surely going to prove an important impetus for the financing of various infrastructure projects like solid-waste management, cleaning of the Ganga and smart cities. The rural electrification, which is eternally finance-starved sector, would surely be fast accelerated. Who can deny that Foreign Direct Investment from a number of global companies would not only accelerate the tempo of development but also help fulfill the much-hyped slogan of ‘Make in India’ by Narendra Modi himself? Initiative to allure the big corporate houses to make investment in the various sectors of the economy is sure to make the nation a manufacturing goods hub and which would finally end up making the country ascend on the high inclusive growth trajectory with increased Gross Domestic Product, platform for the ultimate betterment of the common masses and social welfare of the proletariat segment of the society.
Narendra Modi’s admonishment of his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif for raising Kashmir issue at the United Nations is the issue which has been showcased with the world communities and this merits as one of the most landmark events of his 5-day trip to the US. No doubt, the challenges for the permanent amicable relations and fostering friendly bonds between India and the United States of America are galore and what is really the issue of most concern is the lack of what we may call the collective strategic steps to fight the fast galloping menace of terrorism. The US, too, has suffered a lot and almost entire world is facing the problems of cross-border terrorism one way or another. At this critical juncture, both the countries need to come closer than before to chalk out some flawless and sound strategic steps to root out this modern human danger of the global village. Tacking of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the nascent terrorist outfit, is another global issue which both the nations must sit together to hammer out it permanently.
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the USA once had said, “(A) spirit of justice and friendly accommodation … is our duty and our interest to cultivate with all nations.” In the milieu of universal brotherhood and fast-shrinking socio-familial and economic boundaries of the nations in the world we may, at least, look forward to a more fulfilling and soothing relations with the US which would be further cemented with warm respect and recognition given to Narendra Modi, who once topped the anathema of the most developed nation of the world.
By Shreeprakash Sharma