Way back in 2013 when the BJP picked him as its face for the next Prime Minister to end Manmohan Singh’s two-decade long stint, Narendra Damodardas Modi was considered as an outlier at home and a man to be shunned by the world outside. The United States of America, the world’s oldest democracy, had even banned his entry since 2005.
Then 2014 happened! Within eight years as India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has emerged as the most trusted politician at home and the most sought-after leader on the global stage. In a world that has produced many storytellers — from Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel to Barack Obama — India has added one leader whose narrative is compelling, one who has allowed Indians to create a story for the nation too. He is Narendra Modi. “No power in the world can stop a country of 1.3 billion people.
The 21st century will be India’s century,” Modi said at the outset as India watched a man of the people rise from the ranks of the opposition ascend to power in 2014 after six decades of the Nehru Gandhi family’s rule.
Narendra Modi promised India a new beginning. During the last eight years of his rule, he has delivered on his promises. India has emerged as a global power under his leadership. It is not surprising that the Morning Consult Political Intelligence, a global rating firm, which releases popularity ratings of world leaders has vehemently rated Prime Minister Narendra Modi as one of the most popular leaders in the world with over 77 per cent approval rating. While the Modi Government excelled in various fields of governance, it particularly stood out in designing and deploying a robust foreign policy that forced even bitter enemies like former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to acknowledge its merit.
During eight years, Modi has undertaken 118 foreign visits till May this year, covering 63 countries. He has visited Russia, China, France and Germany five times each while the US, seven times. He is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel and the first to give importance to Nordic countries that had been neglected by his predecessors. From shunning its “non-aligned” stance to asserting its identity on global forums, from displaying zero tolerance towards terrorism emanating from its neighbouring countries to prioritising its self-interest above conformity to the western notions, India’s foreign policy has undergone a remarkable transformation under the leadership of PM Modi.
A major component of Modi’s conduct of foreign affairs is his personal rapport with the world leaders. He has made some very popular headlines both nationally and internationally in the name of his magical ‘Jadoo ki Jhappi’ to global leaders. Prior to 2014, the way of welcoming guests in India was just seen as a formality, Modi after taking over the office of the Prime Minister, gave it a personal touch, and hence the ‘bear hug’ came into existence. And now, those have become the part and parcel of PM Modi’s diplomatic meetings, resulting in the coining of a new word ‘hugplomacy’ in diplomatic parlance.
Modi has welcomed many international leaders – from US presidents Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Bidden to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, UK PM Boris Johnson, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Crown Prince of UAE Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan – with such ‘bear hugs’.
Modi has also used his personal warmth to transform the Indian diaspora into a diplomatic force multiplier to push India’s interests. He has demonstrated how to fill vast stadiums abroad with people of Indian origin, each vying for that paid ticket just to cheer their leader and express their love for India. This feat and its scale cannot be matched by other politicians or heads of government in the 21st century. The Indian diaspora for long were taken for granted by earlier Indian prime ministers. They saw Indians abroad, the useful NRIs as well as the Indians who were now foreign citizens and PIOs, as a source of massive inward remittances. Modi was the first to see the diaspora as allies, benefactors, and unofficial ambassadors.
Indian diplomacy has developed new dimensions under him that has not only improved the image and prestige of every ethnic Indian but also changed international diplomacy itself. The Indian Prime Minister has stretched it beyond what was earlier thought possible or proper. The recalibration of India’s foreign policy in tune with the emerging world order has led to India becoming indispensable in addressing diverse cross-cutting challenges, ranging from combating terrorism, global warming, piracy and pandemics to reshaping of global governance architecture.
With his refusal to toe the Western line in the Russia-Ukraine crisis and embrace neutrality, Modi has demonstrated that India’s foreign policy is rooted in the country’s self-interest and not in abiding by the hypocritical standards of morality preached by the West. In the process, he has also retained friends on both sides and stayed clear of antagonising anyone.
WORLD LEADERS CHEER INDIA’S VACCINE DIPLOMACY
India’s leading role in the global war against Covid-19 won fulsome praise from US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the recently-held Quad Summit in Tokyo.
President Joe Biden thanked Prime Minister Modi’s for his handling of the Coviid19 pandemic and its role in providing vaccines and medicines to fight the virus. “This contrast sharply with China’s failure in this respect and has shown the world that democracies can deliver,” he said.
Hailing India’s vaccine diplomacy, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said India’s gesture in donating vaccines to Cambodia and Thailand under the Quad umbrella helped them control the epidemic. He also complimented India for becoming an international hub for vaccine manufacturing and research.
India last month provided 200,000 doses of Covovax, a version of the Novavax vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India (SII), to Thailand. It also shipped 325,000 doses of Covishield, a version of the AstraZeneca shot made by the SII, to Cambodia.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also launched an ambitious ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative in the year Covid-19 peaked.
New Delhi has delivered more than 45.6 million doses of ‘Made in India’ jabs to as many as 45 countries of the world—including Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles. Of these, 7.12 million were generous donations.
While the country was already a global hub of vaccine manufacturing, India’s export of Covid vaccines during a raging pandemic has boosted its credentials as a reliable provider of health goods.
Till April 2022, India has exported 170 million Covid vaccine doses either as a grant, on a commercial basis, or as part of COVAX – a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid vaccines – to around 96 countries and UN agencies globally.
PM Modi promised that India will provide 5 billion vaccine doses in 2022, at the recently-held global Covid summit.