Clothes diplomacy: A new way to inspire world leaders?

'C' for Clothes-Diplomacy: Michelle Obama's floral blue printed outfit during India visit by an Indian designer did make a statement! Exchanging clothes as a token of friendship seems to be the new trend: A Mysore silk shawl presented to Obama (left) and Pakistan's PM Nawaz Sharif's gift of saree to Modi's mother (extreme right) are all signs of successful diplomacy!

‘C’ for Clothes-Diplomacy: Michelle Obama’s floral blue printed outfit during India visit by an Indian designer did make a statement! Exchanging clothes as a token of friendship seems to be the new trend: A Mysore silk shawl presented to Obama (left) and Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif’s gift of saree to Modi’s mother (extreme right) are all signs of successful diplomacy!

Clothes maketh a man. Man maketh new friends.

Michelle Obama’s outfit during Obama’s India visit caught the eye of many Indians worldwide, and (most likely) turned Bibhu Mohapatra (the Indian designer who created Michelle’s outfit) into a celebrity overnight! Michelle seems to have an eye for designers creating fashion clothing in different countries. She sure has a novel way of inspiring friendship in the countries that the couple visit. US President Barack Obama was also presented with a Mysore silk shawl during the Republic day celebrations in India. It makes me think of clothes’ exchange as a great way to connect world leaders.

Raising a toast on clothes diplomacy, I am reminded of a moment last year when PM Modi connected with his counterpart, Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif. Modi was pleasantly surprised when PM Sharif gifted a white sari to his mother just after his party’s historic win in 2014. The tweet elaborated this connection between the two leaders- “Nawaz Sharif ji told me he stays in Islamabad but goes to meet his Mother once in a week.” Reciprocating the friendship, Modi sent a shawl for PM Sharif’s mother as a gesture acknowledging this connection. In times when the world is divided over serious differences, I see this as a chance for world leaders to connect, build upon and pass it on as a customary (clothes) legacy!

On exchanging good will, I recently read that Obama sent in a richly embroidered ‘chadar’ (holy cloth) at the mausoleum of the Garib Nawaz on the inaugural day of the week-long Urs at the popular Ajmer Dargah Sharif, where people from different religions come to pay respect. The ‘chadar’ was handed over to Haji Chishty “on behalf of the US government and Mr Obama by US ambassador Richard Verma, deputy chief of mission Micheal Pelletier and other officials” on Friday morning (24th April). Ajmer’s Dargah Sharif has been a favorite shrine for several rulers, kings, emperors, and in recent years, other leaders from Pakistan and other countries.

If clothes were a token of respect, cultural exchange and friendship, it is time to spread this wave and make real bonds. A new chapter in diplomacy?

What do you say? Clothes make the difference? Write to me.

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