- The other recipients of the award are Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
President Donald Trump presented the prestigious Legion of Merit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, Dec. 22, for his leadership in elevating the strategic partnership of the two countries and emergence of India as a global power.
According to a press release issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs, “The Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, is a rarely-awarded, prestigious decoration that can only be bestowed by President of the United States, typically upon Heads of State or Heads of Government of other countries.”
India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Taranjit Singh Sandhu, accepted the award on behalf of the Prime Minister from National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien at the White House.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted saying, “I am deeply honored,” adding that the honor recognizes efforts of people of both countries to improve bilateral ties. Prime Minister Modi further reiterated his government’s “firm commitment” to strengthen the ties between the two countries.
The citation with the award states: “For exceptionally meritorious service as the Prime Minister of the Republic of India from May 2014 to August 2020. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s steadfast leadership and vision have accelerated India’s emergence as a global power and elevated the strategic partnership between the U.S. and India to address global challenges. Prime Minister Modi’s personal engagement expanded U.S.-India ties across all facets of the relationship, helping to establish a strong foundation for an enduring partnership that is based on shared commitment to freedom, democratic principles, the equal treatment of all citizens, and the rule of law. India is a key partner for the US in the Indo-Pacific, where the two countries are increasing collaboration to ensure freedom of the seas, open and transparent investment and infrastructure development, secure and reliable digital networks, and good governance.”
As a glowing tribute, the citation further added: “Prime Minister Modi’s personal initiative strengthened the defense partnership between the United States and India, enhancing USA’s ability to secure joint military cooperation that addressed shared challenges. His efforts to expand India’s economic cooperation with the US has advanced prosperity, investment and job creation in both countries. Prime Minister Modi’s superior effort, personal leadership, and unwavering commitment to advancing strategic cooperation between the United States and India and promoting global peace and prosperity reflect great credit upon himself, the Indian armed forces, and his country.”
The award is a domed five-pointed American white star plaque of heraldic form bordered in purplish-red enamel 215/16 inches circumscribing diameter with 13 white stars on a blue field emerging from a circle of clouds; backing the star, a laurel wreath with pierced, crossed arrows pointing outward between each arm of the star and the wreath. The reverse is engraved with the words ‘United States of America.’
O’Brien in a tweet said that Trump also presented the Legion of Merit to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The awards were received by their respective ambassadors in Washington, D.C.
In the opinion of some, this may be a calculated move by Trump to decorate the heads of the U.S.-led Quad alliance created to counter Beijing in the Asia-Pacific.
According to Russia Today, the four countries (United States, Japan, Australia and India) make up the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the “Asian NATO” or simply the “Quad.” Though the informal alliance was largely dormant throughout the 2010s amid disputes between Canberra and New Delhi, the Trump administration has overseen a resurgence of the bloc, encouraging renewed cooperation and military drills in the Asia-Pacific with eyes on China. The alliance met last month for three days of naval exercises off the coast of India, showing off an arsenal of destroyers, frigates and other warships.
Netizens in India and globally, have been reaching out via social media to congratulate Modi.
Modi right-hand man, and Union Home Minister, Amit Shah tweeted, “I congratulate PM @narendramodiji on being conferred with the ‘Legion of Merit’ by US President for his superior efforts in enriching the India-US relationship. This award is yet another testimony of his acceptance as a world leader, working relentlessly towards global peace.”
Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Coal and Mines, Govt Of India. Member of Parliament, Dharwad constituency Prahlad Joshi tweeted, “Congratulations to PM @NarendraModi ji on being conferred the prestigious Legion of Merit by the President of the USA. This is yet another recognition of his leadership in strengthening partnership between the two countries.”
Vijay Rathore tweeted, “With great honour & pride, I congratulate PM @NarendraModiji, on being awarded the Legion of Merit by US President @RealDonaldTrump. Another testament to his stature as one of the tallest leaders in the world, his contribution in elevating India-US ties is unmatched.”
Another netizen tweeted, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been awarded the Legion of Merit by U.S. President Donald Trump for his leadership in elevating the US-India strategic partnership. I am so proud to have a leader like PM Modi. @narendramodi @realDonaldTrump #ModiHaiToMumkinHai #NarendraModi”
Dipti Dange tweeted, “proud moment for Indians “US President Donald Trump” presented the “Legion of Merit” to Mr. PM Congratulations @narendramodi sir.”
There are, of course, detractors as well, who have long criticized Modi’s right-wing extremist ideologies.
A netizen Sahdev pointed out via a tweet that “Legion Of Merit is nothing but a gift from one #JumleBazz to another. No partnership has improved because when @JoeBiden will take office next month, he will only see Modi as an anti-Muslim, separatist, and Friend of Bajrang Dal and RSS.”
Another netizen, Vijayment tweetd, “Once again Trump demeans the Medal by awarding it to someone who has not earned it. At this point it has become nothing more than a piece of junk metal.”
Trump had earlier awarded the Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, to Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait on September 18, 2020.
Previous recipients of the award include Field Marshal KM Cariappa, who received the Legion of Merit in 1950.
The Legion of Merit was last awarded in 1991.
(Top photo: India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Taranjit Singh Sandhu accepting the award on behalf of the Prime Minister from National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien at the White House on Dec. 22.)