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Why Australia welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi like a rock star

Why Australia welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi like a rock star


When he touched down in Sydney this week, India’s Prime Minister received a rock star welcome.

But when Anthony Albanese jokingly called Narendra Modi a ‘boss’, chances are the comparison to US rock legend Bruce Springsteen was lost on the visiting frontman’s 20,000 elated fans.

“Most Indians in the public there or in India wouldn’t actually associate Bruce Springsteen with the nickname ‘boss,'” said Pradeep Taneja, senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Melbourne.

“I think in India it’s taken literally to mean that the Albanese Prime Minister of Australia was saying that Modi is actually ‘the boss’.”

But for many Indians, including those in the diaspora, their prime minister retains a sort of cult status.

With an approval rating of 80%, it’s no surprise India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader is tipped to easily win a third consecutive term in national elections next year.

But beneath a level of popularity that most world leaders could only dream of is a more complex and divisive figure.

Narendra Modi and Anthony Albanese attended a bilateral meeting in Sydney.()

In the years since he came to power in 2014, India under Modi has seen a massive fall in almost all democratic indicators, comparable only to that seen under the repressive policies of Indira Gandhi in the 1970s.

“Many Indians, especially in academia and the media, would tell you that there has been an erosion of civil liberties since he came to power,” Dr. Taneja told the ABC News Daily podcast.


“It’s something that’s been witnessed in terms of raids on media organizations on think tanks, so there’s definitely controversy around it,” he said.

Modi’s criticisms focus on his particularly strident form of Hindu nationalism or Hindutva, which has been condemned for stoking ethnic tensions, leading to increased Muslim persecution.

In particular, Modi’s response to the 2002 riots in Gujarat state, at a time when he was the state’s chief minister, remains controversial more than two decades later. His critics accuse him of not doing enough to stop the violence that left more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead.

China’s influence

Even in Australia, protests followed Modi’s visit, with posters calling for his arrest, accusing him of being a “Hindu terrorist”.

But despite being asked about it on at least two occasions, Albanese refused to engage in criticism of the Indian leader.

“It’s not for me to comment (but) India, as a democracy, has a range of views, which is a good thing,” he told David Koch of Channel Seven before responding to a similar question from the ABC’s Michael Rowland, pointing out that India is “the biggest democracy in the world”.




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