Prime Minister Modi’s innovative, substantive and creative initiatives in the world of diplomacy has earned him yet another laurel in the form of a “Legion of Merit” conferred upon him by US President Donald Trump.
Prime Minister Modi has earlier been honoured by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirate, Russia, the Maldives and the Palestinian Authority. All these awards symbolize international recognition of the role the Indian Prime Minister has played in world affairs and his constant efforts to promote peace and stability in the midst of widespread conflicts, wars, terrorist activities and several other challenges.
The United States awarded the “Legion of Merit” due to Prime Minister Modi’s role in elevating Indo-US strategic partnership to new heights. While the bilateral Strategic Partnership between India and the United States has been in an upward trajectory since the March 2000 visit to India by then US President Bill Clinton, and the signing of a Vision Statement by him and then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, there have been several hurdles and hiccups through the decades.
Many analysts predicted had doubts on this Strategic Partnership when Mr. Narendra Modi led the BJP to a massive electoral victory in 2014 and became India’s Prime Minister.
What turned out was immensely impressive. Prime Minister Modi quickly built a positive link with President Barack Obama, got an invitation to visit Washington and before long, developed a close personal chemistry with the then charismatic US President. The result was deeper and more expansive ties between the two democracies. President Obama’s visit to India as the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations in 2015; his Summit level interactions with Prime Minister Modi and signing of a host of agreements to further strengthen the bilateral ties are bright spots in the history of India’s relations with the United States.
The naysayers and sceptics predicted difficult times in India’s relations with the United States when Donald Trump won the US Presidential election in November 2016. For the first time in the American history a business tycoon with little political experience and virtually no knowledge of how Washington worked entered the White House. He was considered a maverick, mercurial and a difficult personality. He is quite straightforward and often frank in his remarks about foreign leaders and world affairs. Mr. Trump often was at loggerheads with many foreign policy decisions adopted bt the earlier US administration.
Yet Prime Minister Modi managed his relationship with the new American President skilfully. It stunned the analysts in India and elsewhere. Many people kept their fingers crossed when Prime Minister Modi visited Washington for his first summit level meeting with President Donald Trump. The outcome of the visit was remarkably positive. While President Trump had hard talks with America’s alliance partners, including NATO members, Japan and South Korea, he seemed determined to carry forward his country’s Strategic Partnership with India.
On several occasions, President Trump had talked tough with India on trade and investment issues, yet Prime Minister Modi struck a positive chord in his relationship with him and the defence and security ties with the Trump Administration deepened to an extent unimaginable just about a few years ago.
President Trump was mindful of India’s harsh neighbourhood where India has had to navigate with a sponsor of terrorism (Pakistan) and an assertive northern neighbour, China. Both countries are bound together in an unholy alliance. The Trump Administration’s no-nonsense opposition to China’s muscle flexing and retaliatory aid suspension to punish an unreliable and untrustworthy Pakistan certainly benefit Indian interests.
Prime Minitser Modi’s Houston rally and the Ahmedabad rally jointly with President Trump stand testimony to success of India’s ever growing Strategic Partnership with the US and India’s role in world affairs as a new major power. The Legion of Merit is indeed eminently deserved to be awarded to Prime Minister Modi!
Script: Prof. Chintamani Mahapatra, Rector, JNU