How well his outreach to the Indian diaspora translates into a foreign policy instrument depends on their effectiveness as pressure groups but Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to be on course to attain two other objectives: “Unite” the Indian community abroad, and “revive” their links with the motherland.
Over 250 organisations of the Indian diaspora, for instance, are working overtime to ensure the success of Modi’s address in San Jose on his upcoming trip to the United States. So strong was the response that registration for the event, supposed to end on September 10, had to be closed on August 24. Over 50,000 people had already registered at a venue with a capacity of only 18,000.
For Modi’s last such event in Dubai, 80 organisations came together, which forced a change in venue. BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who went to Dubai before the event, had to visit a cricket stadium around midnight to check lights, air conditioners, and other requirements before finalising it. The organisers also had to go the extra mile to placate the Kerala Muslim Congress, a local organisation, which was upset at not being involved.
Ahead of the Madison Square Garden event in September last year, Ram Madhav travelled to the US thrice in 15 days — which even piqued the curiosity of immigration officials — to ensure all organisations worked together to make it successful.
“At the community level, we wanted to use the PM’s popularity to unite them as one Indian community, be it Muslims or Brahmins or anybody. When united, they are recognised and respected by local governments too,” Ram Madhav told Hindustan Times.
In New York last year, Modi exhorted each Indian-American to persuade at least five non-Indians to visit the country and contribute to tourism. He did the same in Shanghai. But growth in tourism was only an apparent reason: the real intent was to make them connect with their motherland, a long-standing objective of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
“Since Modiji started it, the emotional connect between the diaspora and the motherland has been 100%. The physical connect is evident from the growth in tourism, by about 25 per cent,” said Ram Madhav.
Those in the foreign policy establishment are also enthused by the diaspora’s massive response to Modi. “If the Jewish people could be so effective as a pressure group for Israel, why can’t people of Indian origin do the same? Indian diaspora constitutes about 25 million across the world,” said an official involved in organising Modi’s events abroad.
When conceived, the Madison Square Garden event was supposed to be a one-off. But the response by Indian-Americans encouraged organisers to try to tap the ‘Modi wave’ elsewhere too. After San Jose, Modi’s next interaction with the Indian diaspora is in London, then Kuala Lumpur, and finally Singapore. There could be many more in next year’s calendar.