Fareed Zakaria is Indian-born (now a naturalized American) and a respected journalist of our times. He is well educated and has been conferred the Padma Bhushan in 2010 by the previous government.
He is also an enthusiastic Barack Obama supporter and one of the many journalists who had been vocal about their inhibitions regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
CNN is going to air an interview of PM Modi by Zakaria, conducted at the Prime Minister’s residence, on September 21. We can watch it on CNN-IBN at 4.30 PM on Sunday.
This interview, as we all know, comes days before our Prime Minister’s visit to the US where he is scheduled to speak at the United Nations General Assembly.
One cannot help but laugh at the silliness of the US administration, as well as the media, when it comes to understanding Indians. They seem to be hardwired into believing that we are a nation that believes in sycophancy and will do anything to gain American favor.
This belief is reflected in almost all of their decisions post the voting-to-power of the BJP government. After the Nancy Powell debacle, the US has been very careful not to make any diplomatically rash decisions.
Their leaders give carefully measured statements about things pertaining to India and our leader, PM Modi. Even Obama’s nomination of Richard Verma as the new Ambassador to India is not something we should be very jubilant about. He seems to have taken a leaf straight out of the oldest and darkest play-books of politics.
Not just the Democrats, even the Republicans have tried to cozy up to our PM by likening him to Ronald Reagan. Read this article to know more. It is all humbug, if you ask me. One can even draw similarities between a dog and a human. Doesn’t mean that you will write an article about why the human is similar to a dog.
So, Mr. Fareed Zakaria, who any sane person will not hesitate to call a Democrat, has been entrusted with the humongous task of not just being the first to interview PM Modi after his elevation to the top office, but also allay the fears of the American community, while at the same time presenting them as gracious hosts to our Prime Minister.
Post the interview, Zakaria spoke to Ananya Dasgupta at CNN-IBN . And what a role-reversal it was for him! At 5:25, Ananya ends a question about whether he sees our PM differently. Zakaria truthfully admits that he had never met him before. He also accepts that he had underestimated him like many others and recalls how at an Indian Express ADDA, held in late March 2012, he had said that PM Modi is a regional player who won’t go on to become the PM. Well, it is only a small fraction of what he really said.
Mr. Fareed Zakaria had said that he violently disagrees with some things that the then Gujarat CM had done. Also, at that time he believed that Narendra Modi is not the face of all of India. “The real trends in India are more complicated, they are more about regionalization, they are more about the rise of lower-caste bodies and lower caste aspirations. Those are the real dynamics that are likely to shape Indian politics for the next 10-15 years,” he goes on to add in his shoddy analysis of the churning in Indian politics.
However, we must understand that there is no problem in being the polar opposite of the man you were yesterday. Any one of us can have an epiphany and see rationality beyond the darkness in front of us. Mr. Zakaria seems to have had his own personal epiphany.
How else do you explain his having used adjectives such as extremely intelligent, among the sharpest, strong negotiator, practical, smart, tough and focused for a man who he didn’t hold in much high regard not so long back. Mr. Fareed Zakaria is well respected and will not be called a hypocrite by many. Nor will he be called an Obama-stooge by others. He is too well-educated to be anybody’s stooge. Right?
As an Indian, I cannot help but be delighted by the outcome of PM’s interview to CNN. I had a very brief glimpse of what is to be aired, and it will be safe to say that the PM shines in the interview. This is perhaps why Mr. Zakaria had to admit that our PM is a brilliant leader.
He even showers a distinctive praise by saying that PM Narendra Modi wants to be a leader of an united India and that PM Modi doesn’t like divisions on basis of petty issues like caste and gender.
Yet, I also do not agree with the use of the word ‘shrewd’ while talking about PM Modi’s statesmanship. Shrewd is used in anything but a positive connotation. Maybe, Mr. Zakaria belongs to a part of the world where being shrewd is a good thing. Whatever his reasons may be, an Indian will always relate shrewd with its synonyms that include conniving, scheming and to an extent unemotional.
Mr. Zakaria at one point, compares PM Modi to Bill Clinton. I have never understood the American habit of drawing comparisons betweeb new, upcoming and brilliant leaders across the globe to their politicians of yore.
This statement from him has the Democratic Party stamped all over it.
He seems to believe that our PM very much wants to be a statesman. Somebody needs to tell him that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been a statesman. It is recently that the United States has climbed down from its false moral high-ground and accepted it.
In another interview to Sagarika Ghose, again of CNN-IBN, in April, the wise analyst Mr. Fareed Zakaria calls the US denial of a visa to the man Narendra Modi as a mistake, short-sighted and a cock-up. He goes on to speculate if he will be gracious in accepting the tacit apology that he has been provided by the US government.
A very salient feature in our Prime Minister’s interactions has been that he never lets bad-blood get in the way of a bright future. This reflects in his handling of China, Pakistan and the United States. He seems to be one of the leaders who sincerely believe that we must see the good in our relationships with other countries and tap into it, rather than worsening what is already wrong. So, when Mr. Zakaria says that our Prime Minister is straightforwardly pro-American, I can’t help but smile. This must have been the exact sentiment our Prime Minister intended to plant. Anyway, all of us are free to form an opinion.
I could go on about Mr. Zakaria and the countless number of times that he has given bad advice on Indian affairs . But then there is always a chance of being called an unreasonable critic of a wise, educated man. Nobody wants that.
I would urge all Indians to not miss the interview. It will be a delight to see our Prime Minister give his first public interview since the elections while eagerly waiting to hear/see him speak at the UN General Assembly later next week.
(This article was originally published by The Avenue Mail.)