When Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu with replicas of two sets of copper plates regarded as sacred relics in the Indian Jewish tradition, it was only the latest example of the careful thought he and his team appear to be putting into the gifting process.
In the past too, Modi's gifts have often reflected a key historical and symbolic moment in the shared history of India and the country whose head of state he is meeting. During his maiden visit to the United States, Modi presented former US President Barack Obama with a recording of a 1959 speech made by Martin Luther King Jr. when he visited India and a photograph of him at Rajghat. During Obama's 2015 visit to India, Modi presented him with a copy of a 1946 telegram from the US, wishing the Constituent Assembly success in its deliberations. For President Donald Trump, Modi took a a folio containing an original commemorative postal stamp issued by India to mark the death centenary of Abraham Lincoln.
The stamp honoured the memory of a great American President & symbolized closeness of the ideals for which Lincoln stood & which drove Bapu. pic.twitter.com/VsMDnwsDX7— PMO India (@PMOIndia) June 26, 2017
During his 2014 visit to Australia, Modi gifted then Australian PM, Tony Abbott, with a copy of Australian lawyer John Lang's 1854 petition against the East India Company on behalf of Rani Lakshmibai.
The PM's gifts also sometimes combine religious and historical shared heritages. During his historic visit to Nepal in 2014, Modi gifted a sapling of the Bodhi tree at Buddha Gaya to the country as a token of the two countries' shared Buddhist heritage. During his 2016 visit to Iran, Modi gifted Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Khamenei a rare 7th century manuscript of the Holy Quran. During his visit to Saudi Arabia the same year, he gave King Salman a gold-plated replica of the Cheraman Juma Masjid, believed to be the first mosque in India.
But perhaps his most memorable and personal gift is the one he gave to Pakistan's PM Nawaz Sharif; In 2014, Modi sent a shawl for Sharif's mother.
Most people have a fallback option for gifts when they cannot think of something unique, and the PM seems to be no different. He has gifted copies of the Bhagavad Gita to Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, albeit with a small customised touch.
The Ministry of External Affairs discloses the gifts received by the PM and top Indian dignitaries, but does not maintain a record of the gifts given by the PM.