Positioning Oman: Modi’s Charm Offensive in Muscat

Prime Minister Modi has spoken to diaspora audiences from Madison Square Garden in NYC to the Singapore Expo, which I missed then. Fortunately, I was here today, to witness and document the address to the Indian Diaspora here in Muscat, all of whom are Indian Passport holders, including blue collar construction labor who were brought over in buses to Muscat as major construction companies were backing the event. The diaspora event was organised by the Embassy of India at Muscat and the Indian Social Club. The event was a half day affair with the cultural program starting at 3pm in the afternoon which lasted till 7pm. Modi ji took the podium after landing up from Dubai where he spoke at the World Government Summit. There were about 20, 000 people in the stadium by evening who were handed out Water, Fruit Juice and Snack packets. We Indians like a free takeaway.

The Indian Diaspora is a reflection of the polity back home. The Indian Social Club is a meta organisation of various regional clubs. Prior to the cultural program, the Ministry of External Affairs videos, which ran on the projectors, where high on the usual tropes of Yoga, Food and Bollywood. The cultural program started with a dance performance by the Sanskrit Club, a classical language which is not a spoken language indicative of India’s current bias in cultural programming. The programs doubled down on Bollywood and film music in dance and singing, catering to a mixed audience. The Punjabi and the Kannada performances received the most applause. I was not aware that there are Sindhi, Uttaranchal and Telangana wings of the Indian Social Club. Sindh, is reflected in the Indian national anthem, but is geographically a part of post colonial Pakistan. The Gujarati and Bengali performance were professional and were locked in to the traditional.

Oman, has a historic association with Gujarati diaspora with a major trading presence in Mutrah, Ruwi and Darsait. However, the close trading and people to people contact was not represented in official GCC level diplomatic relations. Saudi Arabia and the UAE were always rendered precedence. Oman was not given its due in South Block. Modiji’s Muscat visit changes the narrative, as India’s maritime neighbour in the Arabian Sea.

As Modiji pointed out in his address, a Refinery in Madhya Pradesh is running with Oman’s assistance. There is plenty of joint ventures too, including my undergraduate institution. Modiji’s Address started at 7pm after the customary national anthems. He started off on a good note recapping the historic nature of the Oman India relationship. He pointed out that 8 lakh Indians in Oman are ambassadors and partners. He humorously noted that Indians are like sugar in milk, we mix well effortlessly and add to the sweetness. But he also made an effort to add that the diplomatic establishment works behind the scenes to make sure all aspects are smoothened to make Oman, as favourable home for Indians. He also wished well on behalf on billion plus Indians for the long life of His Majesty.

Then, Modiji restarted on the same template as his campaigns in India during elections. The slogans of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’ and ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’dominated the one hour Address, with black money crackdown. He is a charming orator, with the apt interjection with humour, this time about Modi Care, and all pro poor policies. It sounded like a sales pitch of his government rather than any specific measures for the diaspora, although he assured that no migrant in need will be left behind overseas with ‘e migrant’ and Madad portal.

A proactive foreign policy with the Modi-Sushma ji team, has been a feature of NDA2. The speech was full of energy and paisa vasool with loads of punch lines such as ‘Ek hawai chappal pehene wala bhi hawai jahaz main jaa sakta hain’.

Finally, Modiji ended the evening with a golf cart tour around the stadium waving at his fans.

This was indeed the signature move. A very intelligent man, with keen engagement skills.

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