Every diplomatic visit is a mix of substance and symbolism. In the context of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fourth visit to the US in his two years in office, the symbolism is easy enough to assess. The well-choreographed itinerary, the meeting with business leaders at the US-India Business Council, the pilgrimage to the Arlington National Cemetery where America’s martyred soldiers lie, the juxtaposition of Arlington and the anniversary of D-Day – part of a larger World War II experience where Indian and Americans were allies, the address to the Houses of Congress, and the set of related events that made for “Modi’s Day on the Hill”: every moment was well-planned.
The speech to the joint meeting of the Houses was letter perfect. It ticked off every box – from Lincoln to Gandhi, Martin Luther King to Ambedkar, Vivekananda to Walt Whitman; the salute to “the shared ideals and common philosophy of freedom”; the common threat perception from terrorism; the quest for a meaningful partnership that was fundamental to India’s development.