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Projecting Leadership


Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a passing but scathing mention of Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism during his speech at the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly. In the larger perspective, he warned the comity of nations about the dangers of patronising terrorists, particularly for the patrons themselves. This is in contrast to Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s rant focussing almost entirely on Kashmir. Modi thus de-hyphenated India from Pakistan, correcting a way of thinking some nations have become habituated to in their conduct of foreign relations. He made clear that the world’s future dealings with a Taliban run Afghanistan will depend much on the definition of human rights as ought to be delineated by the United Nations.

PM Modi also countered propaganda about India having become a less open society when he reminded the world community about the country’s ancient democratic practices that remain ingrained in present day society. It was necessary to place this on record as much of the support sought by his political opponents abroad is based on this narrative. Of course, the speech was also directed at the Indian people and his political support base. He took the opportunity to mention Deen Dayal Upadhyay (Saturday being the Jan Sangh stalwart’s birth anniversary), which will have been much appreciated by the BJP cadre.

Till last reported, there has been no criticism of the address by the Opposition, which indicates how well it was formulated. Although, given time, flaws will surely be discovered somewhere; or even invented. During Modi’s entire trip, there was a lot of subliminal messaging regarding his approach to leadership, beginning with the initial photograph of him reading files while flying to the US, a throwback to a similar one of then PM Lal Bahadur Shastri. The hectic schedule, the one-on-ones with major world leaders, and not tarrying a moment in New York after the work was completed – then telecasting the ‘Mann Ki Baat’ – were all part of the same message. No time to waste in the nation’s service! There is no doubt that Modi has set really high standards for India’s politicians through his comprehensive approach to leadership. They will have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they wish to give him a fight in future elections.