Setting up disclaimers as usual. What I write is purely my opinion. The opinion is that of a lay person not very well versed in the political sciences.
As you can see the media coverage and the general energy of the public, there is quite a bit of song and dance surrounding the PMs visit to the US. So what exactly is he accomplishing here?
Change the impression: India used to be called the land of snakes and snake charmers. Quite obviously, this pisses off a large populace . The only change in perception/impression that we have made to this is, now, India is looked at a land of cows, software engineers, and call centers.
India is considered an extremely difficult place to do business. It is considered a ‘dirty place’. (Yes, it hurts me to say this, but please drive down to the passport office in Koramangala, Bangalore and look across the street. You will know what I mean). Owing to the perception of call centers and the large scale monotonous work that we did during Y2K, we are not quite looked at where there is innovation and breakthroughs. Folks in the US still consider that the Indians in the US are super brilliant because they are ‘away’ from India.
Modi’s speeches in the US and his interactions with congressmen and leaders of businesses have revolved around allaying their fears around these factors (and probably more). I believe his trip is trying to prove to them that his new government’s top priority is to fix these basic infrastructural problems. He is probably also asking their opinions on what they consider as a problem; and if there is a large scale need for any specific SOPS he will probably do it.
Market Make in India: This whole concept has multiple facets in itself. Bring investment into India – which in itself is a big thing. This would improve the job situation in India. Also, Modi has been talking a lot about Public-Private-Partnership (PPP). Almost every MNC has money allocated for community service. That is one half of the PPP problem instantaneously solved. I read somewhere that he is already talking with Google and the likes for the Clean Ganga project. The third important factor is, as more and more product manufacturing companies come into India, their products would start getting sold in India. Goods made in India and sold here typically are also available at a lower cost. (case in point – Nokia phones, Ford cars etc). It is a win-win for the companies (expand the market) and India (lower costs).
Get some international publicity: We need this. We need this bad. Let us accept the fact that, if you make a lot of noise in the US, it gets heard world wide. If you go and make a lot of noise in SriLanka or Thailand, no one even notices it – maybe your SAARC partners would, but no one else). This is free publicity. The “May the force be with you” starwars ending line may have sounded corny coming from the PM, but it surely got the attention. For heavens sake, John Oliver made a segment out of it in his HBO Last week Tonight show.
Thank folks for the $$: From what I hear, there was quite a bit of contribution from the Indian diaspora in the US for the Modi campaigns – monetarily. The PM needs to thank them and assure them that there would be the change that they had all contributed towards. If not for anything, he would require their support for 2 more terms (if all goes as per his plan :)).
These are the four ‘real’ reasons why I think Modi’s visit is significant. Any other thoughts, please write in the comments section.