Asia Minute: India’s Latest Diplomatic Controversy: “Hugplomacy”

Jan 22, 2018

Former President Barack Obama receives a hug from India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Credit The White House / Wikimedia Commons

A common form of greeting here in the islands is turning into an international political story. It’s all about higher office, official welcomes, and hugs. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Some people bow, others shake hands, and then there are hugs.

That’s definitely true in Hawai‘i, of course, but it’s also a story in India these days – where Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emerged as the sort of hugger-in-chief. This is getting a lot of publicity in India, and the hugs of international leaders in particular have drawn attention—in what some are calling “hugplomacy.”

The affectionate greetings have been going on for some time, but last week they got a new round of criticism from the Congress Party—Modi’s main political opposition.

The Congress Party put out a video loop ridiculing the practice. A spokesman saying “foreign policy cannot be reduced to showmanship.”

The political video showed some of the more awkward international iterations of Prime Ministerial hugs including an interaction with President Donald Trump.

Modi’s party, the BJP—slammed the video as “immature.”

The television channel India Today spent several segments last week asking whether the criticism was internationally embarrassing to the country. 

On Friday, Modi defended his tactile approach to global affairs—adding that world leaders like his hugs.

He said he was unaware of formal diplomatic protocols because he is, quote, “a common man,” adding “And the openness of this common man is liked by the world.”