Pope, Tweets & Good Optics: What Modi’s Rome Visit Really Was About

Officially, the G20 meet was a success, regardless of the steps taken (or not taken) to stem climate change.

4 min read
Pope, Tweets & Good Optics: What Modi’s Rome Visit Really Was About

With the traditional picture facing the Trevi Fountain where, according to the tradition, you are supposed to throw a coin if you want to come back to Rome, the G20 has come to an end. And, by the way, Rome is no more a city under siege because of the draconian security measures the Italian Government had put in place to ensure the safety of world leaders. According to official declarations, the summit has been a success, despite the actual decisions taken (or, according to activists, not taken) to save the planet from environmental disasters.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were again missing from the summit and they made an appearance only via Zoom. Italians commented they look like that character of a famous Nanni Moretti movie, a character wondering all the time if he'll be “noticed more if I go to the party or if I don't go”. They did not – nobody really missed them and the party went on in full swing.


Modi's Italian Tweets

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the only one to pay homage to Italy with a string of tweets in Italian. “Felice di avere incontrato il Primo Ministro Mario Draghi a Roma. Abbiamo discusso a lungo su come rafforzare l'amicizia tra l'India e l'Italia” he commented this way, with a tweet in Italian, his meeting with the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. The translation, given in another tweet, is, “Glad to have met PM Mario Draghi in Rome. We talked about ways to strengthen the friendship between India and Italy”. And then added, “There is a great potential to further scale up economic linkages, cultural cooperation and for us to work together towards a more environment-friendly planet.”

He had tweeted, again in Italian, as soon as he landed in Rome for G20, “An important forum for deliberating on significant global issues. I look forward to participating in other programs planned during my visit to Rome as well”.

And so he did, meeting the local Indian community while garlanding a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in a little square at EUR. The function has been attended by a little crowd of people holding Indian flags and by a number of Italian ladies singing bhajans “with a perfect accent” according to many Indian commentators. The highlight of the visit, according to Italian commentators, has been the meeting between Modi and Pope Francis. Half an hour into it, according to the Vatican press, “We focused on the cordial relations between the Vatican and India.”

Talking In the Ambiguous

The Pope gave the Indian Prime Minister a bronze tile with the inscription "the desert will become a garden" and some documents of the pontificate, including this year's Message for Peace and the Document on Human Brotherhood. Modi gave the Pope a silver candlestick and a volume on the country's commitment to the environment. Then Modi commented on Twitter, again in Italian and in English: "I had a very warm meeting with Pope Francis. I had the opportunity to discuss various topics with him and I invited him to come to India".

The Prime Minister invited to India the French President Emmanuel Macron as well and, of course, the Italian Prime Minister Draghi or, as Italians call him, “SuperMario”.

Super Mario and Narendra Modi discussed, mostly informally, a wide range of issues from renewable energy to the so-called 'green reconversion' of Asian economies through a stream of funding coming from Western countries.

The aim was, according to experts, the countering of China's positions on the issue and its opposition to the 'green transition'. At a point on Sunday, there were reports that some members of the local Sikh community were planning a farmers’ demonstration against the Indian Prime Minister, but the demonstration, in the end, did not happen. As somebody might remember, months ago, the local Indian Embassy had been vandalised by members of the Khalistan Movement.


Too Little, Too Late

The summit ended on Sunday after talks and negotiations went on all day and part of the previous night.

“Has been a success” declared in the end Mario Draghi. “On climate, for the first time, the G20 countries have pledged to keep within reach the goal of containing overheating below 1.5 degrees with immediate action and medium-term commitments.”

But it is too little, too late, according to activists. “Leaving for Glasgow after a fruitful @g20org Summit in Rome” tweeted Mr Modi on Sunday. “During the Summit, we were able to have elaborate deliberations on issues of global importance such as fighting the pandemic, improving health infrastructures, boosting economic cooperations and furthering innovations”.

And, with a virtual singing of 'Arrivederci Roma' in the background (another mostly American stereotype along with the coin tossed into the Trevi Fountain), the world leaders left for Glasgow, where the COP26 started on Monday.

(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. Her latest book isBalochistan — Bruised, Battered and Bloodied’. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for his reported views.)

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