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Modi affect? The emerging India-US role reversal in world leadership

India has a leader in Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is pursuing the future. The US has a leader in Donald Trump who is pursuing the past

IANS  |  New Delhi 

Narendra Modi
File photo: Narendra Modi

For the last half of the 20th century, the was the world's for and and was a laggard. These roles are reversing as the end of the second decade of the 21st century approaches.

is becoming a and the US is becoming a flashlight. In large part, this is a consequence of leadership.

has a in who is pursuing the future. The US has a in Donald who is pursuing the past. is emphasising individualism and isolationism. Modi is stressing engagement and expansionism.

Freedom House, in its annual report titled "Freedom in the 2018" released in January, noted that "A long list of troubling developments contributed to the global decline of democracy, but perhaps most striking was the accelerating withdrawal of the from its historical commitment to promoting and supporting "

The report's aggregate Freedom Score rating (aggregate score) for the US in 2017 was 86 out of 100 points. Its aggregate score for was 77. This shows that, overall, on the dimensions being measured, the US scores higher. But its score has dropped substantially from 94 in 2008.

Today the majority of the countries that rate 90 and above on their aggregate scores are older and smaller. They do not have the size or stature to assume the democratic leadership mantle if under the Administration relinquishes it.

does. In the last part of 2017, as Modi called for more democratic processes and participation in India's political parties, it appears that he may encourage the country to step forward to take on that obligation.

Time will tell how this plays out. What is certain, at this point, based upon Modi's opening address at the Word Economic Forum on January 23, is that the is using India's as a selling point and putting the country centre stage in terms of its own economic growth and promotion of cooperation.

In his remarks, Modi stressed that is the "largest on planet Earth" and provided a litany of the enormous opportunities for companies to invest in "inclusive economic development".

He also struck a strong free-trade, globalisation note while calling for unity to address the issues of climate change, terrorism and protectionism.

Modi didn't directly say that is open for business. But his message, throughout his comments, was that it is.

Trump, on the other hand, in his closing address at Davos, stated explicitly that "is open for business..." But the implicit message, throughout his comments, was that it is not.

At various points during his speech, asserted: "As President, I will always put first..."; "The will no longer turn a blind eye to unfair economic practices..."; "My administration is proud to have led historic efforts... to de-nuke the Korean peninsula".

According to press reports, Trump's speech was fairly well received while he stayed on script. was, however, booed when he answered a question after concluding his prepared remarks by declaring, "...it wasn't until I became a that I realised how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be."

Therein lies the rub. Even in a setting where was trying to present his more cooperative side, his inherent combative nature and self-centred perspective came though. By contrast, Modi was collaborative and ecumenical in his presentation of self and This was most evident when he concluded his speech by observing:

"If you want wealth with wellness, work in India; if you want peace with prosperity, live in India; if you want health with whole life, be in And our promise is that your agenda will be part of our destiny. We both will have a shared and successful future."

To sum up: Trump's nationalistic communication to the at was "My way or no highway." Modi's was "Our way is the skyway."

America's retrenchment under leaves a leadership vacuum in the under Modi appears poised to fill that vacuum.

What stands out and is differentiating about Modi is his espousing a positive and constructive agenda in terms of involvement. There is no assurance exactly where will conclude its journey to leadership. It can however be stated unequivocally near the beginning of 2018 that is on the right trajectory and climbing upward.

It can be stated with equal certainty that the US is not. It is on a glide path headed downward. This is true because those who live in the past and retreat from the playing field are restricting their future.


(is an entrepreneur, civic and thought based in Washington, The views expressed are personal.)

First Published: Thu, February 15 2018. 15:10 IST
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