When NTU, Singapore and Modi Fooled the Audience!

Bluffs, Gaffes and Sycophancy – The Straits Times Also Playing Toady to Indian PM?

Bluffs, gaffes and sycophantic questions at one of the world’s best educational institutions cannot be just an embarrassment but a disgrace for everyone involved in delivering that.

The fanfare did not stop a person as distinguished as Dr Subra Suresh from asking Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a fawning question: “how do you manage to work so hard all the time?”

How Modi maintains his stamina

A sidebar to a June 2 piece in The Straits Times, Modi moots idea of student hackathon

It is an individual’s prerogative to play toady to anyone, but when Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is the platform for it, the message has unpleasant portents.

You are telling the audience, including students at one of the world’s finest universities, that it is okay to:

  • Kowtow to megalomaniacs
  • Glorify people who are known to be religious fanatics
  • Raise questions that have no meaningful import

BJP Mouthpiece?: An IIT alumnus, Dr Suresh, incidentally, is President of the NTU, a position he took on this January after four years as president of the Carnegie Mellon University. He was also the Dean of the School of Engineering (2007-2010) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from where he had also taken his doctorate.

Singapore, India's political toolThe question and answer was faithfully reported in The Straits Times (see image) which appears to have become a mouthpiece of the BJP and of Mr Modi in Singapore.

He has let down all those institutions he has been associated with by putting forth a question that verges on inanity. Particularly so because similar scripted questions had been posed to Mr Modi by another so-called interviewer during the latter’s visit to London / other global cities.

That brings me to the gaffe of Mr Modi’s translator in Singapore.

To a question from Dr Suresh on the main challenges facing Asia, Mr Modi gave a simple response, with the crux of it being that “Though the world is of the view that the 21st century belongs to Asia, those in the region do not think so. We are so much in awe of the rest of the world we often find it hard to believe that it is our turn now.”

The translator came up with an elaborate response attributing to Mr Modi what he did not talk about (Asian Tigers, China, Japan, SEA, digital era, sustainability, pollution, biodiversity and so forth). When I listened to the video available online, it was clear the translator was reading from a script – and reading it superfast – that Mr Modi deviated from.

What a gaffe!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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