Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and US president Barack Obama bonded over their humble beginnings on a radio show aired on Tuesday (January 27), just after the American leader ended his New Delhi visit.
Obama co-hosted Modi’s monthly radio show as part of his packed three-day trip and took questions from Indian listeners in a more informal setting after a series of official meetings and banquets.
The leaders of the world’s largest democracies spoke of their humble backgrounds and the vast opportunities that helped them rise to the top.
“I think both of us have been blessed with extraordinary opportunity, coming from relatively humble beginnings,” Obama said in answer to a question.
“When I think about what’s best in America and what’s best in India, the notion that a tea seller or somebody who is born to a single mother, like me, could end up leading our countries is an extraordinary example of the opportunities that exist within our countries,” he said.
Modi added that he had never imagined holding the country’s top office “because, as Barack said, I came from a very humble background”.
As the son of a lower-caste tea vendor, Modi’s backstory is often compared to Obama’s inspirational rise to become America’s first black president.
In the 30-minute pre-recorded edition of Mann Ki Baat (From the Heart), Modi also praised the way Obama is raising his two daughters, calling it an “inspiration” for India where preferences to have sons has resulted in a wide gender gap.
A newfound bonhomie between the two leaders was fully evident in Obama’s latest visit, which saw bear hugs, first-name references, a new “friendship” pact, and even compliments on Modi’s sense of fashion.
Obama became the first US president to be chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade on Monday.
The invitation to the annual celebration is one of the biggest honours the country can bestow on a foreign leader and underscores the importance that Modi places on US ties.