Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to celebrate yoga, culminating in International Yoga Day on June 21, was criticized by some minority groups for promoting rituals linked to Hinduism, a charge Modi’s Hindu nationalist party denies. But the Premier’s championing of yoga fits a pattern of showy initiatives since he came to power in May 2014:
Modi has been eager to promote India as the birthplace of Buddhism to its 488 million adherents worldwide, even visiting sacred sites in Japan, China and Sri Lanka.
Modi has used his popularity on social media to raise India’s profile; he tweets at fellow world leaders, welcomes foreign investors to India and announced President Barack Obama’s visit to India on the platform. He has 29 million Facebook fans and uses China’s microblogging site Weibo.
Modi has reached out to India’s 25 million-strong diaspora during his frequent trips abroad. He packed New York City’s Madison Square Garden in September, and Indian media reports say he is planning an event at London’s Wembley Stadium this year.
This appears in the July 06, 2015 issue of TIME.