I like this projection of soft power.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown that he can go the extra mile to charm his foreign hosts, his Australia visit being the latest case in point. During his meeting with his counterpart Tony Abbott earlier this week, Modi sought to bring under focus India's anthropological link with Australia when he gifted Abbott paintings by India's Warli tribe who are considered 'Australoid' in origin.
The indigenous Warli tribe based in coastal areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat played an important role in Modi's Australia outreach as the PM gifted a couple of paintings made by Warli women to Abbott.
The term Australoid is said to denote a broad racial classification representing people across continents, including the Australian aborigines. It could also represent communities in Malay peninsula, southeast Asia and a handful of tribes in the Indian subcontinent. Sources said the gifts were meant to underline the common anthropological thread to indigenous communities in both the countries. Modi had started his speech in Sydney's Allphones Arena by acknowledging "the tradition of this land" and by paying respect to "original owners of the land of Sydney, the aborigines and their descendants".
That Modi's gift diplomacy is well thought out was first evident when he gifted Rogan paintings by a Gujarat-based Muslim family to Obama in September this year.
Modi returned from his three-country visit, including to Australia, on Thursday. This was the first visit to Australia by an Indian PM after Rajiv Gandhi in 1986.
The Warlis are said to be worshippers of nature with their own animistic beliefs and customs. They are said to have gradually converted to Hinduism. According to the website, warli.in, Warli paintings were mainly done by the women folk, the most important aspect of the paintings being that these do not depict mythological characters or images of deities, but social life.
After he became PM, Modi himself received Warli paintings from the Dang district authorities in Gujarat who wanted to popularise this ancient art form. Modi also gifted to Abbott a Gond painting by well known artist Rajendra Shyam.
Modi was welcomed in his Sydney hotel by a group of aboriginal dancers. He was also gifted a boomerang, a weapon used for hunting by indigenous Australians.