While this US visit will be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first since the inglorious visa ban in 2005, he is no stranger to the American land, and New York City is reported to be like his ‘second home’.
Modi used to frequent the city during the 1990s, mainly as a Sangh Parivar pracharak, according to The Times of India, and is returning after a gap of 14 years, of which the last nine years were in the shadow of the visa ban.
An old associate of Modi from his RSS days recalls that every time the latter visited the US, he had ‘India on his mind’, and it seems like that will remain constant even during this visit by Modi, now of course, in the capacity of the head of the nation.
“In everything he did here, he had India on his mind,” Suresh Jani, an old Modi associate from his hometown Vadnagar in Gujarat, told TOI.
In New York, Modi would frequent a Korean deli on 28th and Fifth Avenue and an original Diwan restaurant on 48th and Lexington that has closed since.
One of his visits in New York was to see the famous Statue of Liberty, which reportedly was the genesis behind Modi’s idea for the Sardar Patel Statue that was disclosed by his government in the Union Budget, Jani says.
But some of Modi’s biggest takeaways from his visits to the United States, even outside New York, were understanding the governance and infrastructure in the country.
According to his associates, when in the US, Modi focused on roads, rivers and urban regeneration and strived to understand the difference in American and Indian approaches to these problems.
Modi will have a similar goal in mind this time as well, during his meetings with the current and former mayors of New York City, and he is likely to learn more about the popular campaigns run in the city to make it a role model of a health lifestyle, through a strong deterrance to smoking, limiting soft, fizzy drink sizes, and making private vehicle ownership prohibitively expensive.
Decades later, as Modi makes his first US visit as the Prime Minister of the nation, he will reunite with his old associates as he meets thousands of Indians based there at a grand event at the Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
And, of course, in his meetings with the American leadership including President Barack Obama, he is likely to look for take-aways for India, as he did in his earlier visits years ago.