India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, is a man of many contradictions. Frequently criticized for being a Hindu chauvinist, he has disavowed parochialism and presents himself as a leader for all Indians.

An avowed nationalist, he nevertheless invited Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in as prime minister. His readiness to find common ground with China has confounded many observers who expected a harder line toward Beijing.

Perhaps his most perplexing move came at the end of last month when Modi, a man whose entire record has reflected a commitment to helping businesses shed the heavy hand of the Indian bureaucracy, torpedoed a World Trade Organization (WTO) deal that would have reformed customs rules and made global trade much easier.