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In Modi’s Twitter Diplomacy, A Notable Omission

Author: Nida Najar
Publication: The New York Times
Date: May 19, 2014
URL: http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/india/2014/05/19/in-modis-twitter-diplomacy-some-notable-omissions/?smid=tw-share&smv1=

Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who swept the country’s election results on Friday, has started to appear decidedly more prime ministerial by the day.

Over the past few days, he has taken to Twitter to thank foreign leaders for their support, but the order in which he thanked them and one notable omission, later rectified, was more interesting than the content of the tweets themselves.

On Friday, after Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain was one of the first Western leaders to congratulate Mr. Modi on his victory via Twitter, Mr. Modi responded with gratitude:

@Number10gov Thank you Prime Minister @David_Cameron for the wishes. Hoping to further strengthen India-UK relations.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 16 May 14

On Sunday, he thanked the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper.

Had a telephonic conversation with @pmharper. Thanked him for his wishes & talked about our commitment to strengthen India-Canada relations.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 18 May 14

Then the president and past and current prime ministers of Nepal were given thanks for their kind wishes.

Then, onto Russia and a leader that Mr. Modi, with his authoritarian style and penchant for flouting public opinion, has often been compared.

I thank President Putin for his good wishes. Looking forward to making our relations with Russia even stronger in the years to come.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 19 May 14

India famously came to Russia’s defense in its recent standoff with Ukraine, placing itself directly counter to American foreign policy. The group of nations known as Brics – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – consist of a potential diplomatic counterweight to Western nations.

Mr. Modi then thanked the prime minister of Japan, a country that Mr. Modi courted as chief minister of Gujarat and one that could be a crucial partner as part of India’s Look East policy engaging with East Asia. Japanese companies have already invested heavily in Gujarat.

On to President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, President François Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain, all of whom congratulated him on his victory on Monday, according to Mr. Modi.

As the list of nations grew throughout the India day, the leader of the biggest Western power, President Obama, began to look more and more like the kid who was picked last for teams during recess.

The silence underscored what will be uncomfortable diplomatic theater in the weeks and months to come. The United States refused to issue Mr. Modi a visa in 2005 as a response to his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. As Mr. Modi’s star rose in the past year, American leaders reached out, but a thaw on Mr. Modi’s side has been almost imperceptible.

Relations between the United States and India have also been tense this past year over the treatment of an Indian consular worker in New York, Devyani Khobragade, who was charged with visa fraud.

Mr. Obama called Mr. Modi on Friday to congratulate him on his victory and to offer an invitation to visit Washington at a “mutually agreeable time,” which would presumably be after the United States grants Mr. Modi a visa.

At long last, after Mr. Modi thanked the prime ministers of Fiji and New Zealand, he finally got around to Mr. Obama:

In our conversation, @BarackObama & I talked about further strengthening India-USA strategic partnership that will help both nations.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 19 May 14
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