Sandwiched between diplomacy and reality: Modi-Obama friendship

New Delhi: The world has taken note. It is the historic relationship between the world’s first and the largest democracy; a friendship flourishing between the two powerful men—Barack Obama and Narendra Modi—which has surpassed politics and diplomacy.

The affection from US President Barack Obama did seem genuine when he pulled Prime Minister Narendra Modi into a bear hug as he stepped off Air Force One last year. An intimacy seemed to envelop the two as they sat in the garden of an old royal palace, smiling and chatting.

In Time magazine last year, Obama wrote a short biography on Modi, declaring him as ‘India’s reformer-in-chief’, who “reflects the dynamism and potential of India’s rise...transcends the ancient and the modern.” "Barack and I have formed a bond, a friendship," Modi had commented.

However, world’s most read and widely known philosopher Plato has once said: “True friendship can exist only between equals.” Does this mean their friendship is a farce, or has the world really begun to see India as a highly educated and powerful country with a billion-plus people whose voice couldn’t be muzzled anymore?

Political analysts have often been sceptical of Modi’s foreign policy. Through their vision, based on calculations rather than genuine affection, they see a leader carefully shaping the country's political narrative by putting himself at the centre of any diplomatic achievement.

Meanwhile, the citizens here are overjoyed. They see Narendra Modi as a strong leader who would bring a shift in the idea of India from a balancing power into a leading one. With his unique, energetic, attacking and proactive brand of diplomacy, Modi has given India what it had been longing for long: Respect.

There is always theatre in politics, of course, and all politicians understand the need to sometimes say one thing while believing something else. But Modi has carefully woven his personality into India's international standing, creating what former Indian national security adviser M.K. Narayanan has called a "personalised diplomacy", the Associated Press noted.

India and US have much on their plates, which could well justify their increased intimacy. Amidst all brouhaha over UNSC permanent membership, NSG membership, and leading the globe, Modi has made sure that this friendship yields him greater technology transfer and economic partnerships that would yield capital to his array of ambitious programmes, such as Digital India, Make in India, Skill India or Start-up India, and several smart cities.

With the United States on a gradual decline and China starting to benchmark itself as a world power, Obama feels that maintaining close relations with the ‘number two’ country is a necessity. Soon-to-be the world's third-largest economy, India also presents itself as a financially-stable market from where investors could draw maximum profits.

‘Friends with national interests’ would be a more logical conclusion!

Written by Mayank Mohanti