Meeting Mr. Modi
Look at the data, not the drama, in weighing up Modi’s India
Last Tuesday I had the honor of meeting India’s prime minister, Shri Narendra Modi. Theoretically, he was in Sydney for a “Quad” summit that fell through; in reality, he was in Sydney to meet with members of the 750,000-strong Indian disapora, who held a big stadium event to welcome him. I wrote about that for Quadrant online at:
That online article was a lot of fun, but if you look carefully at the photo above, you’ll see me handing a physical newspaper to the Hon. Mr. Modi. That newspaper is the May 23 Australian Financial Review, which ran my op-ed on demonstrably false allegations of deteriorating press freedom, rising religious discrimination, and outright political repression in India under the headline:
Thanks to the AFR for that fantastic headline, which exactly caught the mood of the article — and my motivation for writing it. Indeed, I spend my quarter-hour with Mr. Modi mainly talking about data, and he loved the headline. He mainly spoke to me in Hindi (I think!), but he returned several times to that English-language phrase: “data not drama.”
That is exactly the sentiment behind the think tank I’m setting up in Australia with help from the Indian-Australian community, the Indian Century Roundtable:
As India grows in economic and strategic importance, the world needs objective information on India and its democratic model. We intend to provide that information on a “data not drama” basis. We aspire to be the world's most trusted source of information about India.
We’re mainly talking to Australian corporates and investors to become legal members of this not-for-profit corporation, but everyone is welcome to contribute. If you’d like to support this effort, you can contribute at:
Thanks for your support (moral or financial). We’re already up and running, and we have big plans for the 2023-2024 fiscal year that starts July 1. Watch this space.
Finally, people keep asking me how I would describe Mr. Modi. In a word, I would say: “gracious.” He was eminently dignified, as befits a national leader (or so we have forgotten), but also affable, approachable, and (dare I say it?) grandfatherly. It was a great pleasure to meet him. I don’t mean to be greedy, but I sincerely hope I have the opportunity to meet him again.