Legion of Merit for PM Modi: What does it mean for India?
Rare US military honour yet another testament of PM Modi’s statesmanship and government’s efforts to evolve the dynamics of relations with India’s closest allies.
If 2020 could bring the icing on the cake for a year of stunning achievements in Indian diplomacy and foreign policy amid the pandemic, it arrived in the form of the prestigious Legion of Merit awarded to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by US President Donald Trump.
Prime Minister Modi was awarded the rare military honour by President Trump on Monday for his role in advancing the India-US relationship to unprecedented levels. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s steadfast leadership and vision have accelerated India’s emergence as a global power and elevated the strategic partnership between the United States and India to address global challenges,” said the citation of the award.
The award was presented by US National Security Adviser (NSA) Robert C. O’Brien to Indian Ambassador to US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who accepted it on PM Modi’s behalf.
Strong validation of PM’s policies
With India reviving and strengthening the key alliance of the Quad group of nations through a variety of dialogue, exercises and activities during the year, the award was also a strong validation of the security policies pursued by the Modi government to keep the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific free of external threats and hegemony and conducive to free trade. Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, and Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, who along with India and the US constitute the ‘Quad,’ were also presented the award.
“I am deeply honoured to be awarded the Legion of Merit by @POTUS @realDonald Trump. It recognises the efforts of the people of India & the US to improve bilateral ties, reflected in the bipartisan consensus in both countries about the Indo-US Strategic Partnership,” PM Modi said in tweets accepting the award.
“The 21st century presents both unprecedented challenges as well as opportunities. The India-US relationship can leverage the vast potential of our people’s unique strengths to provide global leadership for the benefit of the entire humanity. On behalf of the 1.3 billion people of India, I reiterate my government’s firm conviction and commitment to continue working with the US government, and all other stakeholders in both countries, for further strengthening India-US ties,” he said.
Quad becomes mainstream
The implications of the award are huge for the Quad and India’s vital role in it.
The Legion of Merit essentially makes the Quad dialogue and process mainstream from an experimental stage towards institutionalization of the security architecture in the Indo-Pacific, according to a senior Indian defence official, speaking to Hindustan Times. While Quad is a strategic coalition, recent naval drills between the four countries as part of the Malabar exercise in India have indicated the formation of a full-fledged military alliance, and the award further reinforces the shared vision of democracy and values among Quad countries.
Personal leadership a gamechanger
Indeed, whether it’s the unwavering commitment to advancing strategic cooperation between the United States and India or promoting global peace and prosperity, PM Modi’s personal leadership has often been the game-changer in the bilateral dynamics. And it’s true not only of the US, but of so many nations around the world – from India’s neighbourhood of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the south-east Asian swathes to the Middle East and Africa to Europe and the UK.
During the height of the pandemic, it was India which rushed essential medicines, aid and even qualified nurses to countries around the world to help them cope with the raging coronavirus outbreak.
Despite the pandemic, PM Modi not only managed to strengthen trade and security relations with a host of nations around the world, but also guided the government to find new avenues of cooperation with countries from Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia to Maldives, the UK and the UAE.
Even during the height of the face-off with China, New Delhi displayed a remarkable strategic restraint that’s in sharp contrast to the jingoistic approach of many other nations. From Africa and America to Europe and Asia, the international community today looks up to India as a beacon of stability and progress – the leader of a multilateral world order amid the rapid flux of global geopolitics.
According to Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar, PM Modi being awarded the prestigious honour by the United States reflected the strong strategic partnership between the two countries. He expressed confidence that this relationship will grow in the coming years and lauded PM Modi’s efforts for recognising and guiding relations between India and the US.
“The prestigious Legion of Merit, awarded to PM @narendramodi reflects the strong India-US strategic partnership today. PM recognised its true potential and guided its progress. Confident that the relationship will continue to grow in the years ahead,” he tweeted.
The award is yet another testament of PM Modi’s statesmanship as well as the government’s constant endeavor to evolve the dynamics of bilateral relations with India’s closest allies. Last year, Modi was honored with the ‘Order of Zayed’, the UAE’s highest civilian award, as a mark of recognition for his efforts to boost relations between the two nations.