Modi diplomacy needs to go beyond hugs and hand-holding

SS Dhawan
SS DhawanJun 05, 2017 | 18:33

Modi diplomacy needs to go beyond hugs and hand-holding

Mr Prime Minister, no one cuddles the way you do; and now we are finding out you are good at holding hands, too.

I am sure it must be very reassuring for the heads of state when you cradle them in your arms and gently squeeze their hands. And equally liberating, when you let go!

Not for you those clumsy hand-grabs of (Donald) Trump, neither those limp handshakes of (Barack) Obama; you obviously relish your place in the sun and would like the enduring moments to freeze in time.


No wonder your hugs seem to go on and on and last forever; only the uncharitable will say that you are beginning to get a little clingy, hanging on like a limpet...

It was rather amusing to see recently the newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron trying hard to wriggle out of your belly hug. These French have no manners, no etiquette!

modi_060517052336.jpg'No wonder your hugs seem to go on and on and last forever.'

It was also rather rude of Macron to try and keep the bellies apart; he need not have worried: It was just a hug!

The French have a problem, all right: they can't stand still. Remember, (François) Hollande — the botched embrace in New Delhi? The guy started tying himself into knots while you were still trying to envelop him in your arms. No wonder your hands had drifted to his backside and you were needlessly left blushing. Clearly, the French lack practice.

Nonetheless, as the choreographer of your hugs, my humble advice to you, Mr Prime Minister, is that don't allow your hands to wander while hugging! You never know where they wind up.

Another novice is this Nawaz Sharif: completely lacking in grace and poise! A hug is supposed to loosen you up, bring down the walls. It is not about bodies colliding; he had clearly knocked the air out of you.


Maybe, next time, it will make more sense to keep your hands tightly clenched in your pocket.

Likewise, injudicious hugs can lead to much collateral damage; Pandit had found that out much to his chagrin when he was taken in by the gushing Mandarin.

So, Mr Prime Minister, to use a cricket analogy, you must not take the eye off the ball while hugging the enigmatic Chinese, because if you do, they may catch you in even a tighter embrace.

This is important because the compulsive hugger inevitably gets the better of you, even as geopolitics takes a backseat.

Also, I am a trifle superstitious: so, please stop making these proud assertions that our relations with China are stable and that not a bullet has been fired in the past 40 years. Because, without firing one, they have acquired a part of our usurped land in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir and even built an economic corridor through it!

Sure, anyone in your place would get caught up in the optics and swept away by his own boastful assertions. Such as: ''The entire world is looking at Asia and more specifically at India.''

The media, too, is effusive in its praise — ''visionary, dynamic, out of box.'' But, sir ji, atmospherics is no substitute for hard-nosed diplomacy.


It is also good to be confident and sure of one's global chums, but one wishes you had not wasted your time on shuttle diplomacy ahead of the NSG plenary in Seoul and left the preparatory work to professional diplomats. Maybe, then, an impression of a Chinese rebuff could have been avoided.

Maybe the lesson in this is that there are limits to personalised diplomacy, as often these friendly equations don't go beyond pageantry and ceremony.

Otherwise, India would not be still waiting to board the NSG bus.

And what about the strategic defence hug the US gave: just after Obama instinctively flew into your waiting arms at Palam airport? Except that they join us in war games every now and then, little strategic benefit has come our way.

Mr Prime Minister, you have given us our rightful place in the comity of nations and honestly we have no problem with you gallivanting around the world and clocking international miles.

hug-modi-_060517052903.jpgIn geopolitics, the golden rule is: Tip-toe, if you feel the urge to run!

Again, in all fairness, maybe we should stop making unflattering comparisons to Nehru; but perhaps a little bit of Nehru's world view and Patel's pragmatism at home would indeed help. The least you can do is to look a little less stiff at home — especially in photo ops with the likes of Priyanka Chopra — and give somebody other than Ramdev a hug, once in a while.

PM Modi can wrap his arms around world leaders to his heart's content, but there is nothing like a biggie like Fidel Castro jumping on to you with a surprise hug.

NAM folklore has it that when both Castro and Indira Gandhi came face-to-face for the ceremonial exchange of a big wooden gavel, Castro acted coy. ''Mrs Gandhi was taken aback but kept her poise. Castro again failed to hand over the gavel even as he kept smiling mysteriously. ''As a slightly embarrassed Gandhi proffered her hand hesitatingly a third time, the giant Castro pulled her to him and gave her a giant bear hug in full view of the hall, before parting with the gavel.''

That is the stuff world leaders are made of. Ironically, no one represented India at Castro's funeral. Possibly, Mr Prime Minister, when you gave Obama the big bear hug, you got entwined in American apron strings.

Mr Prime Minister, we are acutely aware of your pathological hatred for the Congress — you have also spared no effort to erase Nehru's legacy — but maybe you need to emulate Mrs Gandhi in one matter — her handling of rogue Pakistan.

In the 1970s when the Nixon-Kissinger regime was kneeling before Pakistan and the Bangladesh refugee crisis hit us between the eyes, she had steered the nation ''spectacularly though a humanitarian crisis and a military challenge''. And mind you, at that time, there was hardly any bonhomie between Delhi and Washington.

I realise, Mr Prime Minister, that you have little patience with old-fashioned diplomacy. Rather, you prefer to plunge headlong into these hugs. But, Sir, sometimes it is desirable to gingerly take one step at a time. In geopolitics, the golden rule is: tip-toe, if you feel the urge to run!

Last updated: June 05, 2017 | 18:33
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