Since he became prime minister, in 2014, Narendra Modi has made 91 bilateral visits, to 57 countries. He has spent 177 days, or 9.7 percent of his tenure, on these trips. Meanwhile, foreign world leaders have made 106 bilateral visits to India during Modi’s tenure.
A key aspect of meeting Modi is the Modi hug. His signature bear hug is now world-famous, and the photos form part of Modi lore—Barack Obama’s bemused expressions during their many hugs; François Hollande’s hilariously awkward photo-op with Modi, at the Rock Garden in Chandigarh; the intimate moment with Emmanuel Macron in front of the Arc de Triomphe; the bear hug with Nawaz Sharif that seemed to signal peace in the subcontinent.
But not everyone gets to hug Modi. He has been photographed meeting the leaders of 71 countries, but has only hugged those of 23 countries. In other words, as a world leader, you have around a one-in-three chance of getting a hug.
So suppose you are a world leader about to meet the Indian prime minister. What do you have to do to get a hug from Modi? We took a closer look at the numbers. Here is what we found.
For one, it helps if you are a man. Modi has never hugged a female world leader, possibly a side effect of the celibate existence he was expected to lead as a pracharak—fulltime worker—of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Even the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, possibly the most powerful woman in the world, whose country Modi has visited four times, has never been hugged by Modi. The best they usually manage is a cordial handshake—when she is not brushing him off, that is.
It also helps if your country is rich. We looked at the gross domestic products of the countries Modi has visited. The higher your country’s GDP, the more days Modi spends there—we found a strong correlation, with a Pearson coefficient of 0.78, between GDP and the total duration of Modi’s visits to that country—providing you more opportunities to sneak in a hug. Moreover, a higher GDP has also increased your probability of getting hugged. The average GDP of the 71 countries was just over a trillion dollars. Of the 15 countries with above-average GDPs, nine—or 60 percent—have leaders who have been hugged by Modi, while your probability of getting hugged if your GDP is below average has been 25 percent.
We divided the countries in our data set into quintiles, in ascending order of GDP. As you can see below, the fifth quintile, which represents the richest 20 percent, has a much higher proportion of hugs than the first, which represents the poorest 20 percent of the countries we studied.
Modi has hugged the leaders of five, or 71.4 percent, of the elite G7 nations—75 percent, if you count Russia, which was expelled from the old G8—and 11 of the 18 G20 members he has met, or 61.1 percent. G7 members have been 2.46 times more likely to be hugged than non-members, while G20 members are hugged 2.6 times as much as non-members.
You definitely do not want to be from one of the poorest countries. Of the 14 countries with the lowest GDPs in the list, the leaders of only two—Palestine and Maldives—or 14.3 percent, warranted a Modi hug. When meeting leaders of members of the G77—the bloc of developing nations, which, confusingly, now has 134 members—Modi has hugged only 26.3 percent of them. Non-members of the G77 have been hugged 1.69 times as much as members have.
Investing in India does not hurt your chances of being hugged either. The average foreign direct investment, since 2000, among the countries whose leaders Modi has visited—and whose FDI data is available—was around $5.4 billion. If your country’s FDI flows to India are above this average, you have had a five-in-nine—55.6 percent—chance of being hugged by Modi, while if your country’s FDI is below average, your probability of a hug falls to 29 percent.
Again, we divided the countries into quintiles based on FDI. As you can see below, the bottom two quintiles, which represent the 40 percent of countries that have invested the least in India, have much lower rates of getting hugged than the top three quintiles.
It also helps if India owes your country money. According to a report issued by the ministry of external affairs, in March 2018, five countries accounted for 99.998 percent of India’s total bilateral debt. Other than Germany, which has been led by Merkel throughout Modi’s tenure, the leaders of the other four countries—Japan, the United States, France and Russia—have all been hugged by Modi. According to the best-fit model after we conducted a Bayesian logistic regression, every Rs 1,000 crore in additional lending to the Indian government increases your chances of getting hugged by 4.8 percentage points.
Another statistically significant determinant of whom Modi hugs is the population of non-resident Indians and people of Indian origin in the country in question. For every additional 100,000 overseas Indians living in a country, its leader’s chances of getting hugged improve by 7.72 percentage points.
We wanted to see if your chances of being hugged depended on where your country is located, so we grouped the countries by continent. Modi has visited 32 of Asia’s 48 countries, and the continent accounts for 59 percent of Modi’s foreign visits. An Asian leader has had a 43.8-percent chance of being hugged, 1.51 times that of a non-Asian leader. Europe is next, accounting for 17.6 percent of his visits. Modi has hugged the leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico, the three countries he has visited in North America. He has hugged Tony Abbott, the former prime minister of Australia, but not the leader of Fiji, the only other country in Oceania he has visited.
The data suggests that Modi has a racial preference for whom he hugs, which is borne out by the figures from Africa. Modi has only visited eight, or 14.8 percent, of the continent’s 54 countries, and Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, is the only African leader he has hugged. On his two trips to South America, he did not hug the leaders of Argentina and Brazil.