“Super King of Diplomacy,” read the ticker placed in bold on top of one news channel. “Long live our friendship,” said another. A third declared, “The Boss in America.”
Mainstream Indian news channels — in Hindi, English and some regional languages — covered Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reception in Washington with adulation, praising his diplomatic skills for millions of viewers before a crucial election year for him.
The visuals from Washington played into what Mr. Modi has already set as one of his main campaign themes: tying India’s rise as a major economic power with his rise as a global statesman.
“The scale, the splendor, the warmth,” one headline enthused. Others, such as “Modi’s breakthrough diplomacy” and “Watch history being made,” flooded Indians’ homes Thursday evening as Mr. Modi walked the red carpet to meet President Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden.
“Their body language reflected that they were incomplete without one another,” one news anchor said as visuals of the two leaders shaking hands played on the screen.
Mr. Modi has carefully crafted his relationship with traditional news outlets, using a mix of incentives and pressure tactics to get most of them on his side.
When uncomfortable issues arise — a state election loss, an ethnic war resulting in weeks of unrest and bloodshed in a northeastern state, a deadly three-way train crash — they are quick to deflect blame away from Mr. Modi.
And when a major moment like the state visit to Washington comes, they are happy to join in the cheerleading — a factor that, combined with how Mr. Modi’s party has mastered social media to take his messages viral, helps explain Mr. Modi’s talent for shaping politics to his benefit.
The coverage of Mr. Modi’s visit to the United States is a political boon, setting the agenda in his favor before he launches himself full-time into campaign mode for parliamentary elections next year.
While many channels showed the White House dinner menu ad nauseam, calling it “dinner for friendship,” some others waxed eloquent about the importance of the gifts Mr. Modi had carried for the Bidens. One anchor declared of a military deal between the two countries: “The biggest defense deal. The hearts of enemies will burn!”
And when, at his news conference with Mr. Biden, Mr. Modi skirted a question on India’s grim human rights record and suppression of free speech, one Hindi-language news anchor came to his rescue on her show, saying he had “very bravely” faced the question.