Modi at MSG

Modi, Madison and Media

Amid the mix of the cynical, the patronizing, the downright racist and the ebullient reporting from Madison Square Garden it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. Beyond the song, dance, protests and journalist-added drama was a play of strategies and powers.

Let us start with the one most in-the-face at the event. The evident over-the-top love for India being demonstrated by the Indian Americans at the event. With cries of bharat mata ki jai and vande mataram, it would have been easy to imagine we were at a political rally in India rather than in the center of Manhattan.

Yet, even with all the over-the-top cheers, some of which gave the Delhi journalists dyspepsia, there was an element of simple hearted bhava or feeling. There were ordinary hardworking Indian-American doctors and engineers, teachers and hotel owners. There cries were not calculated but an outpouring of the celebration of finally have an Indian Prime Minister that they could relate to. Someone who did not get where he did from generations of privilege but from perseverance and good Gujarati hard work. But to the Indian media elite, this soulful sentiment is naturally crass, one they have exchanged for cynical power play a long time ago.

Narendra Modi Madison Square garden address

 

Not that the Madison event was devoid of power play. As Rajiv Malhotra had remarked to me last week, the 18,000 attendees in Manhattan were all extras in a script. The play was for the projection of Modi’s soft power in advance of his meetings with the American President and power brokers. The message was certainly not lost on the 30+ American members of Congress in attendance. It was a brilliant way for Modi to pack the deck before his meetings. Indian Americans, the richest ethnic group in the United States, are slowly starting to punch in their weight class, and becoming an important political constituency. The public demonstration of their love for India and support for Modi was a good reminder to the American politicians present there what side Indian Americans would expect them to take.

There cries were not calculated but an outpouring of the celebration of finally have an Indian Prime Minister that they could relate to.

It was also a sight for any politician worth their salt to envy. The subtext was, if Modi could evoke this reaction in Manhattan, what kind of support did he enjoy in India? As a fresh-faced Columbia journalism major who I met in the Press area remarked to me “Wow! I can’t imagine such enthusiasm here for any politician, certainly not for Obama.”

As a power play it was pretty hardcore. Modi played his cards well. A large contingent of Bohra Muslims in their traditional dress served as an effective backdrop. Incidentally, it was the only community (other than Gujaratis) that Modi mentioned by name in his address, in a passing reference when speaking about his Jan Dhan Andolan. Overall, the event was intended to strengthen Modi, and India’s, hands in parleys with the American political establishment.

 

This is not to say that Modi’s engagement with the audience was not genuine. He is clearly appreciative of the diaspora’s contributions to India’s past and present, and the potential for the future. The Indian diaspora’s relationship with India is symbiotic. Despite the abundance of cynical naysayers, Pravasi Bharatiya ties with India are natural. The WSJ, in its fairly balanced coverage, reported Indian Americans as saying that the image of India affected how they were perceived and vice versa. An India that is developed, clean and successful is a positive asset for more than sentimental reasons for the diaspora.

Wow! I can’t imagine such enthusiasm here for any politician, certainly not for Obama

No matter if they are second or third generation, they are often identified with India and “Indianness”. No wonder that so many actively participated in and celebrated Modi’s ascension to power. It goes without saying, or it should, for those with an ounce of discernment that India also benefits hugely from the diaspora. Not only are they a large source of foreign exchange, a driver of jobs to India, but also a powerful extension of India’s diplomacy in the US. In fact, key pieces of legislation in the US, such as tying strings to US funding to Pakistan, the nuclear deal and others would simply not have happened without strong Indian American lobbying and support.

Narendra Modi at MSG

Now let us look at the other side of the soft power play.  No organization in the Indian subcontinent concerns itself with trying to influence American opinion more than the ISI. Since the Pakistani Army is fed on US largesse, moulding US opinion favourably has been a long-term ISI project. Along with pumping funds covertly to US politicians, an offence for which Ghulam Nabi Fai was convicted as a front man, the ISI has bought out or influenced academics, journalists and activist groups. Indian leftists are particularly “useful idiots” for the ISI, given their antipathy to “Indian nationalism”. Not a surprise that these assorted intellectuals and journalists easily find themselves in ISI-funded conferences in the US on “human rights abuses” by India.

A small number of protestors appeared at the Modi event, though I encountered far more pro-Modi signs outside the venue. Yet the Washington Post devoted nearly half its coverage of the Madison Square Event to these insignificant protestors. Let us be 100 per cent clear. Just as the Madison Event was a projection of India’s soft power, the protestors are deployed with the sole aim to diminish it. They are part of the great game.  Pictures of a group of Sikh protestors holding signs saying “1984 Sikh Genocide” along with “arrest Modi” demonstrate that they are unencumbered by facts. ISI systematically funded Khalistani groups over a period of time while the Indian government lay asleep. This is founded on a deep-seated sense of humiliation the Pakistani Army carries for its defeat in 1971 and the split with Bangladesh, for which it holds India responsible.  Funding separatism and terrorism in India is one of the ISI’s prime objectives. These cultivated ISI assets are deployed when needed such as the group protesting against Modi for the “1984 Sikh genocide”.

Indian leftists are particularly “useful idiots” for the ISI, given their antipathy to “Indian nationalism”

There was a report that Indian intelligence agencies are also now investigating direct funding of the ISI to some Indian journalists. While this may surprise some, it has been par for the course. Indian media is eminently bribable. Both Moscow and China have also been revealed to have done this in the past. Furthermore, the ISI even bribes its own media, and has “secret funds” for such information warfare activity.

The “Coalition Against Genocide” (CAG) group that was formed to lobby for the denial of US Visa for Modi also had several groups with ISI links. Most of these groups are actually shell groups where one or two people are behind a whole host of fancy-sounding organizational names. When the ISI links were revealed and CAG was getting to be a liability it was disbanded and reformed as the Orwellian sounding Americans for Justice and Accountability (AJA) which organized some of the protests.

The Indian media is eminently bribable.

Not that all protestors need to be ISI funded. There are plenty that are ideologically opposed to Modi and would work for the ISI cause for free. Crown Prince-in-waiting, Rahul Gandhi had even told the US Ambassador to India after the Mumbai attacks that Modi was a bigger threat than the LeT. Indians that raise the issue of Gujarat riots when the Indian Prime Minister comes to the US, must, prima facie, be viewed with suspicion. This includes street-fighter bully journalists. These Indians undermine the authority of the Indian state and the Supreme Court SIT that found Modi not guilty of the alleged offence of abetting the Gujarat riots and found, instead, that he made considerable efforts to stop them.

Rahul Gandhi had even told the US Ambassador to India after the Mumbai attacks that Modi was a bigger threat than the LeT.

Protests are legitimate in any democracy and Indian protestors are welcome to exercise their democratic right to protest in India. When these protests are held in the US, it must be assumed that these are orchestrated to put India on the backfoot by people who have little interest in India per se. Unless proven otherwise, all those protesting the Indian Prime Minister in the US must considered anti-Indian since they are acting inimically to Indian interests and undermining the authority of the Indian state and of its diplomacy. This includes Indian media personalities. Asking questions on Gujarat riots in the US are as ridiculous as American journalists asking questions about Ferguson from Obama on an India visit. It undermines and disrespects Indian institutions and it would be worth filing a PIL to take cognizance of these offences. Similarly US journalists raking up this closed issue should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

Ultimately the Madison event was also a coming out party for Indian American power and a public recognition of it by the large contingent of American political figures. To continue its consolidation, we should be persistent and firm in the face of abuse, from “eminent” journalists or otherwise. It also needs to be clear that people genuinely interested in human rights in India work on the ground there for people.  Just like the ISI has no genuine interest in human rights and their dramas are for strategic maneuvering, their witting or unwitting collaborators in the US should be simply regarded as enemy agents. In the meanwhile we can celebrate the roar of our lion who is our neighbors envy and India’s pride.

(Sankrant is an author and entrepreneur based in Seattle and Gurgaon. He can be followed on Twitter @sankrant)

Sankrant Sanu is an entrepreneur, author and researcher based in Seattle and Gurgaon. His essays in the book “Invading the Sacred” contested Western academic writing on Hinduism. He is a graduate of IIT Kanpur and the University of Texas and holds six technology patents. His latest book is “The English Medium Myth.” He blogs at sankrant.org .
  • swamijyoti

    THE UNIQUE AND MEMORABLE COMMUNITY RECEPTION FOR OUR BELOVED AND HONORABLE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA, SRI NARENDRA MODI

    I had the privilege of attending the unique and memorable Community Reception for our Beloved and Honorable Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi, on September 28, 2014, at Madison Square Garden, New York, thanks to the kind and gracious invitation from the pmvisit.org, through the good offices of the overseasvbi.org. All good wishes for the collective, concerted and dedicated work done with true team spirit by all concerned, to make our Bharat truly shine, by and by! Ever since the Hon’ble Sri Narendra Modi ji took over the reins of the government of India, with a resounding majority and huge blessings from the citizens of the country, who were intensely yearning from the bottom of their heart, for an early advent of an able, dynamic, dedicated and innovative leadership to salvage the country that was hurtling towards utter perdition, I personally feel greatly relieved that the country is now in safe hands which can steer clear of all vicissitudes, and indeed serve everyone not only with courage, conviction and firm determination, but also with compassion and true devotion. At last, our Motherland is truly free from the vestige of all alien domination, and the resultant nightmare of a decade’s decay and misrule, and above all, rid forever of the highhandedness of a bunch of nincompoops! Bharat Maata ki Jai!

  • swamijyoti

    THE UNIQUE AND MEMORABLE COMMUNITY RECEPTION FOR OUR BELOVED AND HONORABLE PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA, SRI NARENDRA MODI

    I had the privilege of attending the unique and memorable Community Reception for our Beloved and Honorable Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi, on September 28, 2014, at Madison Square Garden, New York, thanks to the kind and gracious invitation from the pmvisit.org, through the good offices of the overseasvbi.org. All good wishes for the collective, concerted and dedicated work done with true team spirit by all concerned, to make our Bharat truly shine, by and by! Ever since the Hon’ble Sri Narendra Modi ji took over the reins of the government of India, with a resounding majority and huge blessings from the citizens of the country, who were intensely yearning from the bottom of their heart, for an early advent of an able, dynamic, dedicated and innovative leadership to salvage the country that was hurtling towards utter perdition, I personally feel greatly relieved that the country is now in safe hands which can steer clear of all vicissitudes, and indeed serve everyone not only with courage, conviction and firm determination, but also with compassion and true devotion. At last, our Motherland is truly free from the vestige of all alien domination, and the resultant nightmare of a decade’s decay and misrule, and above all, rid forever of the highhandedness of a bunch of nincompoops! Bharat Maata ki Jai!

  • swamijyoti

    RAJDEEP SARDESAI, A SENIOR JOURNALIST FROM INDIA WHO SHAMED MEDIA AND THE COUNTRY THROUGH HIS BEHAVIOUR

    It is unfortunate that on such a solemn occasion at NY, just ahead of the Prime Minister’s much-awaited speech to thousands of the Indian Diaspora, a Senior journalist from India openly indulged in highhandedness and exhibited the height of his arrogance. He has shamed media and the country through his behaviour. A good news in this connection is that
    Media in India has finally woken up to the reality of filth within and has started responding to it. Here is a link to Zee News giving a detailed coverage on the incident and questioning Rajdeep Sardesai: http://tinyurl.com/qa94uxb ‘This is the right opportunity and we must maintain the pressure till Rajdeep is brought to book. Modi-followers don’t want to sit quite letting irresponsible and unethical media people like Rajdeep get away with their mischief. As most have indicated in their comments, Rajdeep has fallen in terms of journalistic standards’. Read and sign Pet*tion at http://tinyurl.com/krm96rb (‘Remove Rajdeep Sardesai from Headlines Today channel’) by Nagaraja Gundappa Bengaluru. As this pet*tion reveals: 1.Rajdeep Sardesai called a person who had gathered to watch Narendra Modi’s event in New York an asshole and then misbehaved by physically pushing him and then got pushed back and then showed only the video footage of him being pushed back to portray as if he has been victimised. This is dirty trick politics that does not befit a journalist. 2. He has shown a classist att*tude and insulted the NRIs by declaring that they have money but no class. 3. He abuses people for supporting Mr. Narendra Modi in New York calling them frenzied crowd just because he was heckled. How Rajdeep Sardesai throws the first punch at NaMo supporters and then claims victim-hood? See video here: http://tinyurl.com/kkqzoew The truth is that angry Rajdeep Sardesai at Madison Square Garden NYC Sep 28, 2014,tried to grab a person in the gathering http://tinyurl.com/lu5dfcq

    READ MORE: Rajdeep Sardesai attacked a person, his fellow media persons attacked truth: http://tinyurl.com/pxbowff Also Blog at http://tinyurl.com/na3kn83
    * * *
    Further Reading: The victim who was assaulted by Rajdeep Sardesai writes in his blog:
    “When Rajdeep assaulted me” — Mahender
    http://tinyurl.com/q9ogjvt

    * * *
    from: Ashok
    date: Sep 30, 2014
    subject: A full report on the Rajdeep Sardesai in front of Madison Square
    Garden

    There is text and videos at this url, that gives information that has not been refuted, to the best of my knowledge. For those who are really interested in knowing the full details, and
    not just the tweets from those supporting Rajdeep Sardesai, please see the following: http://deshgujarat.com/2014/09/29/rajdeep-sardesai-attacked-a-person-his-fellow-media-persons-attacked-truth/

  • Sam

    Great commentary! It is obvious that Modi was effectively projecting India’s soft power to the power brokers in the US, belatedly following Israel’s footsteps in this regard. On the other hand, thuggish louts like Sardesai were actively working to undermine him and his Indian-American base; a polar opposite to how journalists of virtually all other nationalities would behave under these circumstances. This peculiar behavior may be unique to this Indian breed (and to an extinct service class in Britain that was brilliantly captured in the butler from The Remains of the Day) as it takes generations of in-bred servility to attain this particular mindset.

  • balayogi

    please ensure to keep on repeating to all those media houses in USA that harp on 2002 riots by repeating the stories of millions of native Indians killed by the white american, the black civil rights protests, the atrocities by USA in Vietnam , the Guatemala prisons, Hiroshima bombs, black slavery etc adding that the some minority group of US media persons want to sponsor Islamic terror now by supporting ISI and its affiliates in US of which these media personalities are part of or getting paid by them . Best way to deal with such scums in media In USA is to either totally ignore them and be indifferent to them but still if you perceive they have influence in society resort to counter attack those idiots who do not want to see a progressive and developed economy.

  • N.Paramasivam

    Superb article. It brought out the interest showed by NRI and IndianAmericans towards Modi. It also analysed the immediate positive response by US in freezing the accounts of terror units of Pakistan. Regarding Media, the author is correct. There are gossips here for some time that some people are getting monthly pay from ISI as the pay of 45 lakhs per month received by Yaseen Malik. It is unfortunate that Rahul Gandhi considers Modi more dangerous than LeT. Too bad Rahul. Similarly the ISI funded CAG and AGA as well as Sikhs asking for Modi arrest for 1984 Sikh genocide by Congress is interesting to read. Overall a beautiful article.

  • Guest

    PM needs to learn the correct 1st name of the Father of the Nation before he seriously embarrasses himself and the country any further. No Excuse!

    • What is in name.

      A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – William Shakespeare.

      • Absolutely right. All hail PM Moti…

        • LOL @TheChosenOne

    • KC

      This guest above and other idiots need to learn Gujrat culture first and see how names are pronounced there interchangeably.

      Anyone knowing Gujarati language will easily rubbish this hate modi campaign.
      In Gujarat whether we call Mohandas or Mohanlal, it’s same. These
      comments criticizing Modi on Lal vs Das only shows lack of knowledge or alternatively an obsession to show Modi in poor light for any damn reason, genuine or not!

      Mohan bhai-das-lal are same in Gujarati.

      • This is the problem with the charlatan and his followers. They like to run their mouths inspite of their dimunitive capacity for logical thought.

        1st off, Moti wasn’t speaking in Gujarat. He was on the world stage.

        2nd off, even if there are variations, there is ONE variation chosen by Gandhiji himself as to how he’d like to be addressed. Moti better respect that if he wants to command any respect in return.

        As an example to the uninitiated, the English name William has close to 10+ variants: e.g. Bill, Billy, Wiley, Will, Williamson, Willie, Wilson etc.

        But you won’t hear any American citizen, let alone any American president, address Bill Clinton as Williamson Clinton or worse Wilson Clinton. This is because William Clinton has chosen Bill to be his 1st name.

        • Manoj

          No. Dumb Moron! Gutless moron who can’t even write his name on a comment gives a lecture on name controversy.

          Bill Clinton or William Jefferson Clinton are used some times when it has to be formal announcement.

          Now, you shut up dumb arguments and focus on better things.

          Majority of Indians are concerned about development,investment,growth and cleanliness.

          Idiots/AAPtards like you are worried about how he can’t speak English or Mohanlal vs MohanDas. Get some life dude!

        • aam

          Have you heard an american child who is not asking for ‘a negg’ ?

    • aam

      His unprepared and unparalleled extempore speech overwhelms such minor inaccuracies.