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“Are you watching TV?”: When S Jaishankar received a ‘midnight call’ from PM Modi during Afghan crisis

Recalling the incident, Jaishankar said that he got a call in the middle of the night from a no-caller ID. On the other side was PM Modi. “Jaage ho (are you awake)?” was his first question.

“Are you watching TV?”: When S Jaishankar received a ‘midnight call’ from PM Modi during Afghan crisis
S Jaishankar on the surprise call from PM Modi at midnight.

Heaping praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar on Thursday shared an instance where he received a call around midnight to be apprised of the situation in Afghanistan following the attack on the Indian consulate at Mazar-i-Sharif back in 2016. Hailing PM Modi for his exemplary leadership skills at an event in New York, Jaishankar said that the Prime Minister’s continued involvement even in the dead of night throughout the whole ordeal was praiseworthy.

Recalling the incident, Jaishankar said that he got a call in the middle of the night from a no-caller ID. On the other side was PM Modi. “Jaage ho (are you awake)?” was his first question.

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Jaishankar was the Foreign Secretary when the Indian consulate at the Afghan city came under attack from a suicide bomber. There were also a series of explosions and heavy gunfire in the area surrounding the consulate. Fortunately, all Indians present were reported to be safe.

“Still remember one day around past midnight and our consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan was under attack. We were trying to get in touch with our local assets and my phone rang. It took me a bit by surprise. When the Prime Minister calls you don’t get a caller ID but still someone connects you. But this time it was the prime minister,” he said.

“The prime minister asked if I’m awake,” Jaishankar said.

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“It’s 12:30 (am), what else will I be doing rather than being awake? Because in his life that’s probably natural,” he said on a lighter note as the crowd broke into laughter.

“Are you watching TV, he asked. Yes sir, I said. He asked me, “What is happening there?” and also told me to inform him personally after the operation was over. When I said that the operation might go on for three-four hours, PM Modi insisted that I still call him and not his office when it’s over.”

Jaishankar said that it was this “singular quality” of PM Modi that helped India present a brave front against the pandemic.

“If you look at how leaders around the world handled Covid – not everybody stepped up or said I’d take that call. To handle the consequences of such difficult choices is an extremely singular quality,” said Jaishankar.

Recalling the first time he met PM Modi, Jaishankar said that he had already developed a liking for him even before he met him.

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