Rajat Sharma

Modi has now brought India-US relationship on an even keel

akb2308In a historic, landmark event at NRG stadium in Houston on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump took a sort of victory lap, hand in hand, accepting accolades from the rapturous Indian-American crowd. Earlier, both the statesmen had lavished fulsome praise on each other, and Modi did some plain speaking about Pakistan’s terrorism export, with Trump sitting in the front row.

For me, this was a new history in the making which only a man like Modi could have carried through. Indians and Americans had never seen their leaders holding hands, making an entry on stage, praising each other and then doing a victory lap in front of a 50,000-strong audience.

Never before had a US president been a guest of the Indian prime minister on American soil. Never had an Indian prime minister said on American soil that he was introducing the US president to “my family”. Most of these Indian Americans are potential voters for Trump in next year’s crucial presidential elections.

For the first time, a US president, holding hands with the Indian prime minister inside a stadium, could have felt that his stature would rise and this would work to his advantage.

Till now, we, in India, had always been seeing India standing as a younger brother with the US, but Sunday night images were different. Both the statesmen stood as equal partners on stage, beaming with pride. Narendra Modi has truly raised India’s stature in the comity of nations.

The images of Houston event are endearing. Right from the grand welcome given to Modi, with spectators chanting ‘Modi, Modi’ and US Senators, House representatives, and other American leaders standing as the Indian PM took the stage till the final victory lap.

It was Modi’s idea to hold Trump’s hand and do a sort of victory lap around the stadium greeting the rapturous crowd. Clearly, Modi was the star of the show, and yet, as a graceful host, he also made Trump the star of his show – both through his speeches and action.

There was another image which was eye-catching. As Modi and Trump strode towards the stage from the ramp, with dance performers standing in a line, a nine-year-old boy from Karnataka, Satwik Hegde, who had taken part in the yoga exercise, suddenly took out his cellphone and requested the leaders for a selfie. Modi noticed the boy, and willingly posed with him and Trump for a selfie.

Atmospherics apart, Modi in his speech clearly outlined the success that his government has achieved in Swachh Bharat, Ujjwala mission providing LPG to poor families, Ayushman Bharat and several other big schemes. Modi spoke about the target of a 5-trillion-dollar economy for India, and said he was confident that the US economy would be a major part in our endeavor.

Let me delve into the past. In 1990, Narendra Modi stood as a tourist outside the White House, and 29 years later, the US president was assuring him that he was India’s closest friend in the White House.

In 2006, Geroge W. Bush was the US president and the US refused to grant a visa to Narendra Modi, but 13 years later it was Modi who is campaigning for the US president saying ‘Ab Ki Baar, Trump Sarkar’.

In 2012, 65 lawmakers from India had written a joint memorandum to the US president asking him not to grant visa to Modi, and seven years later, more than 60 US House representatives and senators stood in line to shake hands with Modi, and some of them took selfies with him.

We have had many prime ministers in the past. They used to visit the US. Several of them struck good personal rapport with past US presidents, but these were relationships in which a superpower was dealing with a developing nation. In those days, it was a big thing when the US president gave time to our prime minister in the White House.

Narendra Modi has completely upturned the entire format. He has brought the India-US relationship on an even keel. The Indian prime minister was not seen as seeking something, but was being seen as giving something to the US president.

I see this as the beginning of an equal relationship – a relationship about which India can be proud of. In the coming days and weeks, we shall be hearing more about the outcomes of this equal relationship.

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