You know all about Brangelina. But here in India, there is “Mobama,” the budding friendship between U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Obama, who is the midst of a quick, three-day trip to India, and Modi appear be genuinely enjoying their time together. And the Indian media -- both newspapers and TV -- can’t seem to get enough of what they have dubbed Mobama. Local networks are even speculating whether the two leaders might take a selfie.
Modi greeted Obama with a bear hug on the airport tarmac after showing up by surprise in a break of protocol. (There was a second hug later after the two spoke to the media.) Modi and Obama strolled the elaborate gardens and drank a cup of chai outside the grand butterfly-shaped Hyderabad House, a British colonial-era building that now houses Modi’s offices. They sat next to each other at the State Dinner Sunday night and the two-hour Republic Day parade. They conducted a joint radio address.
And yes, they call each other by their first names.
“Barack and I have formed a bond, a friendship,” Modi said. “We can laugh and joke and talk easily on the phone. The chemistry that has brought Barack and me closer has also brought Washington and Delhi closer.”
For his part, Obama teased Modi about being as popular as a Bollywood star, his stylish clothes, his ability to survive on three hours sleep and how he survived an attack by a crocodile. He seems to have endeared himself, too, to Modi by trying to speak a bit of Hindi (though not very well).
Obama and Modi have four times in just five months. And the two announced at a joint statement Sunday that feel comfortable enough to bypass their staffs and speak directly to each other on a variety of issues, including climate change.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the two men, who spent far more time together than the White House had expected., have a lot in common in terms of personal stories and world views.
“They found a meeting of minds about where they want to go,” Rhodes said. “It opens up a space for cooperation.”
Modi, a former tea salesman, and Obama, a black man raised in a broken home, took unlikely paths to their success. They both ran unprecedented campaigns and faced enormous expectations about their elections.
“I’ve often said that my life story could only happen in America,” Obama said at the State Dinner Sunday night. “But of course, Mr. Prime Minister, your story could only happen in India. Here this evening, we think back to all those years ago -- to your father selling tea in the train station, and your mother working at other families’ homes to support her own. And tonight, their son welcomes us as the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy.”