Modi’s one-hour long speech – which was peppered with jokes, rhetorical flourishes and history lessons –was a logical culmination of his Silicon Valley and US tour. For him, guilt-tinged and accusatory notions such as “brain drain” are not purely negative concepts that require metaphorical hand-wringing but are instead potential opportunities. “We often keep hearing ‘we need to stop this brain drain.’ But India is Bahuratna Vasundhara, there will be many brains here. We’re not going to lose our crop of brains due to brain drain… we simply need to reverse it to brain gain,” he said.
Reversing brain gain, for Modi, is therefore done through partnerships: by leaning on Indian-origin employee-laden technology firms and roping them in as an equal partner in India’s economic and social development. This particular relationship proves to be mutually beneficial for both parties – countries accelerate their national development plans and technology companies that are still smarting over being kicked out of China get unlimited access to new markets – and is one that other developing countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Sri Lanka and Kenya have been looking to replicate.
India, however, has a number of advantages over them all: the first being that it has a much larger economy than most other developing nations’. The second, however, is the reason that Modi has come to Silicon Valley: to be able to tap into a vast talent pool that has a vested interest in the future of India. As the Prime Minister put it in his speech: “California is the place where IT and our democratic values have tied us together in a union. India’s link with this region has been unbroken and ongoing… the Indian community here can contribute to building that future.”
However, as with every victory lap, there always remains a chance that one steps slightly off-target. Modi, perhaps unwisely, chose to take away from the main thrust of his speech by taking a dig at the previous UPA government in search of validation.
When talking about corruption, the Prime Minister pointed out that in India, “it doesn’t take much for allegations to come up against politicians”. “This person made 50 crores, that son made 250 crores, that daughter made 500 crores, someone’s son-in-law made 1000 crores,” in an apparent reference to Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra.
Back in India, in the last six months, there have been questions and doubts regarding the pace of reform and deregulation being enacted by the ruling government. Top U.S investor Jim Rogers, for instance, announced a few weeks ago that he had exited all of his India-focused investments and went on to say that nothing new would come from Modi.
At San Jose’s SAP Centre, however, the audience appeared to not care, applauding and roaring in appreciation as Modi launched into a monologue about his work-ethic: “Have I kept my promise? Am I working hard? Am I working day and night? Did I deliver…? I am keeping at it and delivering.”
But perhaps the lure of Modi’s vision of the future is too hard to resist. Pointing out that even within the BRICS countries, the future could potentially belong to India, the Prime Minister asked the audience: “To who does the 21st century belong to?” Without skipping a beat, they roared back: “Modi, Modi, Modi!”.