Akbar Ahmed, a former Pakistani-American diplomat and academic, has written a two-part essay in The Express Tribune (published on May 14 and 15) titled 'What Modi can learn from Akbar'. Ahmed argues that along with Ashoka and Kanishka, Emperor Akbar presents a model of stagecraft for all subcontinental leaders. First, under his rule, India (as it was then) was among the greatest economies in the world, accounting for nearly a quarter of the world's GDP. In contrast, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan together today account for less than four per cent. Second, "In any discussion of these emperors, we must not overlook their military might. Akbar's army possessed some 30,000 armour-plated elephants which acted like modern tanks. His infantry and cavalry numbered in the hundreds of thousands. He was a successful military commander and doubled the size of his empire, extending — after half a century of his rule — from Afghanistan in the north, to the Muslim kingdoms in south India, from Sindh in the west to Bengal in the east." Then there's the fact that of Akbar's "nine jewels" four were Hindus — his religious tolerance allowed him the best of talent in the military, arts and administration.
In the second part of the article, Ahmed focuses more on how contemporary India is squandering its legacy and opportunity, so unlike Akbar or even Modi's more recent predecessors: "As someone committed to interfaith understanding and building bridges of peace between the two neighbours, I remain baffled and distressed to see India so casually throwing away its greatest identifying feature, one inspired by the very Indian religion of Jainism, that of Gandhian non-violence. Modi and his loyal media have been recklessly priming the country for nuclear war and putting Pakistan on alert, thus preparing the scenario for a nuclear exchange. The danger of all this to India itself and the world at large is ignored. Any nuclear exchange will be the ultimate act of self-destruction. The big lesson Modi can learn from the three emperors is that you can crush the opposition and minorities through your security forces and taxes, but if you want your country to truly prosper, you must win their hearts and minds which can only happen when you embrace all your citizens as part of the greater whole. If awoke in Modi's India, the three emperors would ask, what has happened to our beloved homeland? Yes, they would say, Modi may have reached out to Mars, but we reached out to the hearts of our beloved people."