When Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison posted a selfie with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying “Kithana acha he Modi!”, the personal touch in that message was obvious in the language itself. “I am glad Mr Prime Minister”, “You are equally looking great” are the kind of replies that may be expected. But as the world has seen already, PM Modi is known for his personal touch in diplomacy be it in sending pleasantries to the world leaders in their language or showing them personal warmth through his famous hugs. This time too, keeping the ‘coolness’ quotient intact, PM Modi replied to the Australian Prime Minister addressing him as ‘mate’, which made social media go gaga over how cool diplomacy has become.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 29, 2019
Beyond World leaders- Chemistry & History
But on a closer look at many instances, it can be noticed that PM Modi carries his personal chemistry beyond social media platforms to connect with the people of the country that he visits as well. Especially when PM Modi visits Asian countries, he makes it a point to narrate the historical ties and other civilizational similarities those countries have with India.
We check only three instances, all from this year, to elaborate on this point.
Recently, on June 27 PM Modi was addressing the Indian community event in Japan’s Kobe. See how he used this opportunity to showcase the common threads that bind the Indo-Japan relationship.
He said that there are striking similarities between Shibori resist-dyeing technique of Japan’s fabric printing and Bandhani fabric craft that is spread predominantly in Gujarat’s Kutch. Picking the common threads between the nations further he said, “The process of meditation is called ‘dhyana’ in India and ‘Zen’ in Japan. The word for service is ‘seva’ both in India and Japan.”
Addressing the Parliament of Maldives on June 8, 2019 PM Modi had explained that “the relations between India and Maldives are older than history.” The examples he gave were interesting for people to ponder. He said, “‘Week’ is called ‘hafta’ in India, and also in Divehi. Let’s look at the names of weekdays. ‘Sunday’ in Divehi is Aadittha, which is related to Aaditya or Sun. Monday is called Homa which bears similarity with ‘Soma’ or Moon. ‘Dhuniye’ in Divehi is the same as ‘Duniya’ in India, which stands for the world. And ‘Duniya’ is also a famous Maldivian name. And it is not just about this world. The similarity between our languages extends also to heaven and hell. The Divehi words ‘suvuruge’ and ‘naraka’ are similar to ‘swarag’ and ‘narak’ in Hindi.”
While addressing the Indian community event in South Korea on February 21, 2019, he narrated an endearing story from history. He said, “During ancient times, India’s princess Suriratna had reached here after covering a distance of thousands of kilometers. She had married Korea’s King. Even today, lakhs of Koreans consider themselves to be their descendants. Therefore, we can say that we have a blood relation with Koreans. The blood flowing in the people of Korea also has part of India. Even today, there is a statue of the Princess at Ayodhya. The First Lady of Korea, Kim Jung Sook was a witness to it last Diwali. It was a grand event at Ayodhya.”
So, speaking in the language that connects and responds well to the audience is clearly a personal trait of PM Modi. As the above instances show, his interactions with the world is not meant for merely a social media spectacle, as his critics may want us to believe, but involves a lot of understanding about the historical and cultural context. Many might have noticed that even in India while addressing people on public platforms PM Modi makes it a point to touch upon the local historical points, language and cultural aspects of the region he is engaging with.
And mate.. that is what explains Modi’s popularity in India and beyond.