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India’s Prime Minister Modi is obsessed with taking selfies

Narendra Modi knows the power of a good selfie.

The Indian prime minister made that evidently clear on Friday in China, where he is in town for important (and potentially fraught) discussions with his Chinese counterparts. During a visit to Beijing's Temple of Heaven, the Indian leader took a moment to capture a photograph of himself with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

As the Wall Street Journal put it, the photograph may well be the "most powerful selfie in history." It also raises some interesting questions about China's great firewall, which, in theory, blocks the use of Twitter within China (Modi may have used a virtual private network, or just sent the photograph to staff abroad, to post).

For Li, this seems to be his first selfie (Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared in one last month), and followers of Modi on his newly created Sina Weibo account expressed shock at seeing a relatively candid picture of one of Beijing's elite.

But for Modi, it's just one of a long line of selfies featured on his Twitter account, which has over 12 million followers.

Modi even caused a minor scandal when he tweeted after voting in last year's election, which his opponents argued broke election laws because it showed a political symbol (the Bharatiya Janata Party logo).

Modi often isn't the person taking the picture: Big names like American actor Kai Penn and Indian actress Sonam Kapoor have shared their own photos with the Indian leader.

Modi's team even promoted a #selfiewithModi hashtag and set up "selfie booths" that allowed members of the public to take a selfie with the Indian leader.

The 2014 vote that brought Modi to power was dubbed "India's first social media election" at the time. Now, almost a year later, Modi's team seem to have realized that selfies and other social media tactics can help shape the image of the BJP leader, who has been viewed with suspicion by many due to his links to Hindu fundamentalist groups and anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat while he was chief minister of the state in 2002.

See also:

What Narendra Modi’s selfie says about India’s elections

The secret behind Narendra Modi’s fashion sense is out

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was accorded a ceremony at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on Friday. This is the 64-year-old Indian leader’s first trip to China since being elected last year. (Video: Reuters)