The US President, Donald Trump, laid out the red carpet for the Prime minister, Narendra Modi, at the White House in Washington, the first such honour to be bestowed on a visiting dignitary since he assumed office nearly 100 days ago. The tasks have been clearly cut out for them despite some contentious issues. India has already listed the priorities like the H1B visas that would affect many Indian IT firms and computer professionals who have been occupying key positions and making substantial contribution to the country and its wealth creation. More than 60 per cent of the revenues for the Indian IT companies are generated from the US.
The other issue is of climate change of which India has been quite concerned. That should be of equal concern for the US as well, with a spate of floods and drought conditions happening there. So the US stand on the Paris accord is on the agenda. There is speculation that there is not going to be any change in the stand of either but last minute surprises cannot be ruled out.
While relations with the previous President Obama, had been cordial, there was more rhetoric and eloquence than specifics. That was quite unique to Obama, but with Trump it is more realistic and here there is no room for metaphors.
Modi had set the tone for this historic meeting with his address to the Indian expatriates earlier where he listed the achievements of his three years in office. He was effusive about the role played by his Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj, especially in her coming to the rescue of so many Indian expatriates abroad within minutes. A staggering 80,000 Indians stranded or caught in conflict zones, exploited or kidnapped were all rescued in the course of his three-year tenure. Such a humanitarian mission on a global scale is something unique, he pointed out.
On the issue of terrorism, he said that the surgical strikes that were carried out showed that India would be dealing with such attacks in a ruthless manner. He asked the young Indians to keep abreast of the happenings in their home country and made an offer to them that if they wanted to return they would find a congenial atmosphere for the utilization of their talents.
He also harped upon the grave threat that terrorism posed and recalled that when India mentioned this 20 years back, nobody took it seriously. Now with the European cities and landmarks being subjected to periodic assaults they are waking up.
Coming to scientific progress, apart from the IT sector, India had been making spectacular strides in the launching of satellites into the orbit, he said. These launches, a world record of 104 ones at one go recently, have made experts the world over sit up and take notice. The days of the cryogenic engines being transported on the bullock cart are just so much fiction. This is the Adhunik Bharat (modern India) that is being forged with the aid of technology.
He also mentioned of his governments efforts at cracking down on corruption and mentioned how they were able to spot 3 crore ‘ghost gas connections’. Now 5 crore deserving families have been allotted these connections. He said the potential in the country was immense and if they tap technology, and with the demographic dividend in their favour, the potential for India is immense.
Soon after his meeting with the honchos of the Silicon Valley where he discussed how they could collaborate and explore area of cooperation, this dialogue with the Indian expatriates was another exercise in impressing upon them the need for more collaboration. With so much of negative impressions being created by vested interests, Mr. Modi’s efforts have been to present a correct picture.
Modi also said that this meeting with the Indian community has given him extra energy and charged him before his meeting with Trump.
Between his first visit and this one Modi had to go through many minefields like the demonetization exercises of which even experts are divided in their assessments, and the uniform Goods and Services Tax, which had been a long time in the gestation and which had been pushed through, and would be in force next month and that has also been attacked for various reasons. Even with his claim of effected 7,000 reforms there is no dearth of sceptics. It would almost seem that without critics he would not get the adrenalin.
There have been many other ‘million mutinies’ like the farmers’ agitation in many states, the cow vigilante attacks and the turbulence in the Darjeeling hills over language that he had to contend with in these years. After all these the encounter with Trump might seem like a walk in the garden.