Barack Obama wrote a love note to Narendra Modi in TIME magazine

Image: Reuters/Jim Bourg
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Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has made it to TIME magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people—with a short biography penned by US president Barack Obama.

“As a boy, Narendra Modi helped his father sell tea to support their family,” Obama wrote of Modi. “Today, he’s the leader of the world’s largest democracy, and his life story—from poverty to prime minister—reflects the dynamism and potential of India’s rise.”

Modi was once persona non grata in Washington—he was denied a visa to the US after the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died while he ran the Indian state.

But since his ascent to national power, Modi and Obama seem to have developed a warm relationship. In January, Obama became the only US president to visit India twice during his tenure. The two leaders hugged, chatted over tea and strolled in lotus gardens.

In his blurb for TIME, Obama emphasised this budding closeness between the two nations, while obliquely referencing the importance of protecting minorities’ rights:

“When he came to Washington, Narendra and I visited the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We reflected on the teachings of King and Gandhi and how the diversity of backgrounds and faiths in our countries is a strength we have to protect. Prime minister Modi recognises that more than 1 billion Indians living and succeeding together can be an inspiring model for the world.”

TIME Magazine often calls upon world leaders to write bios of their peers: Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd wrote about Chinese president Xi Jinping; Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko wrote about German chancellor Angela Merkel; and South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote about Pope Francis.

Explaining how the authors for the biographies of world leaders were chosen, TIME wrote that “some jobs are best understood by those who have themselves faced the fire.”

In December, Modi had emerged as the winner of the reader’s polls for 2014 TIME Person of the Year, but he was not shortlisted among the top eight finalists by the magazine’s editors.