The self-aggrandizing pomposity of India's Narendra Modi

It's on full display during his visit to the U.S. — and in his policies back home in India

(Image credit: (AP Photo/Saurabh Das))

It's odd for a political leader to take a victory lap in a foreign country. But that's exactly what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist who was elected in a landslide four months ago, will do while visiting the U.S. in a few days. He'll kick things off with a big rally on Sunday, when 20,000 Indian Americans will fete him at Madison Square Garden while thousands more (who couldn't get tickets for the sold-out event) watch the festivities on giant screens in Times Square.

Modi is officially here for the U.N. General Assembly meeting. But that's not what this is all about. From the Indian prime minister's perspective, the main purpose of this American extravaganza is surely to thumb his nose at the U.S. political establishment that placed a travel ban on him in 2005, after he presided over a pogrom of Muslims in the state of Gujarat when he was the chief minister. The Obama administration has been working to normalize relations with Modi — as it must and should — now that he is the duly elected leader of the world's most populous democracy. As such, the White House has singled him out for a dinner with the president (although Modi has declared that he won't eat anything because he's observing a nine-day religious fast, a flamboyant display of his fabled austerity).

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Shikha Dalmia

Shikha Dalmia is a visiting fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University studying the rise of populist authoritarianism.  She is a Bloomberg View contributor and a columnist at the Washington Examiner, and she also writes regularly for The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other publications. She considers herself to be a progressive libertarian and an agnostic with Buddhist longings and a Sufi soul.