NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi has made a mark with his personalised diplomacy across continents but he will take it to altogether another level when he hosts a dinner later this month for top African leaders, all of them dressed in his trademark Modi jackets.
The humble bundi waistcoat which Modi made his own, turning it into a chic accessory, will be at the heart of Modi’s latest bit of sartorial diplomacy which he wishes to execute with the African leaders.
All 42 heads of state and government attending the 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit, from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, will attend the dinner wearing the same Modi jacket, specially designed by government agencies. The sleeveless jackets will come in several resplendent colours.
During their visit to India, the African leaders will also wear an ‘ikkat kurta’ (no pyjamas) being gifted to them by the government. The kurtas will come in a unique colour for each leader.
A senior African diplomat this paper spoke to said he was really impressed with the attention Modi was himself giving to the summit despite his hectic campaigning for Bihar elections. In a series of tweets on Saturday, Modi underlined the significance of the summit.
“The summit is going to be one of the biggest gatherings of African countries outside Africa, which is a reflection of the desire on the part of both Africa and India? to engage more intensively in our quest for a better future,” said Modi.
“India and Africa have a historic relationship based on mutual respect, trust and solidarity. In recent times, our relationship has witnessed progress and has grown into a mutually beneficial partnership,” he added.
Some may find it amusing that the PM gifted the same ‘Modi jacket’ to President Xi Jinping of China – when Xi visited India last year – a country with which India finds itself competing for influence in resource-rich Africa. China will hold its own summit with Africa in South Africa in December this year. In fact, India’s Africa outreach is an effort to scale up traction with the continent where China has made significant strategic investments.
Though China has an impressive footprint in Africa, its businesses have not always generated good publicity with the aloofness of Chinese personnel and various strings usually attached to the assistance.
Modi, who clearly believes that his own personal chemistry with leaders can augment conventional diplomacy, is himself likely to wear the same jacket when he receives the African leaders for dinner. He has used the same accessory for many of his meetings with heads of government including those with Saarc leaders whey they visited India last year for his swearing-in. His knack for dressing neat, and exclusively for the occasion, was in full display during his recent visit to the US.
Modi also put out pictures related to the summit on Facebook, including one of a light duty truck which he got converted into a mobile museum on Gandhi. The truck is currently collecting memorabilia from iconic places in Gandhi’s life which he will gift to African leaders.