Modi Uses Another International Visit to Raise His Local Profile

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week once again showed that Mr. Modi is a master of media management.

The summit of the heads of the world’s two most-populous countries produced mixed results. A lot of agreements were signed, but the $100 billion in Chinese investment pledges that some local media had predicted did not materialize. And just as the leaders were shaking hands, there was an embarrassing faceoff between Chinese and Indian troops along the countries’ disputed boundary.

That didn’t stop India’s prime minister from again using photo opportunities and body language to broadcast his confidence, an impression that is likely to remain long after local media stop discussing the border tension and whether China had promised enough money.

Indians watching the visit wouldn’t have missed some of the symbolism. Mr. Xi flew into Mr. Modi’s home state, on the Indian prime minister’s birthday. Mr. Xi wore an Indian vest that Mr. Modi gave him. Video of the two showed Mr. Modi walking in front of Mr. Xi at one event and swinging on a swing with him. At one point it even looked like Mr. Xi was carrying an umbrella for Mr. Modi.

The Indian prime minister has used the same charisma in photo ops during other international summits, most recently in Japan where he gave Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a big bear hug and later performed a solo on traditional Japanese drums.

All of this has been beamed into Indian homes and marks a major change from the demeanor of the country’s previous prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who was soft- spoken and slow-moving.

Mr. Modi’s multimedia skills are one of the things that made him prime minister. Whether it is his controversial selfies, the sight of hundreds of supporters wearing Modi masks, campaign speeches delivered through hologram, his stylish outfits or his willingness to put on almost any kind of regional headwear, Mr. Modi knows how to make an impression.


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