Modi and Trump discuss their achievements, promise closer ties at HowdyModi! event



U.S. President Donald Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi participate in the “Howdy Modi” event in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi lashed out at Pakistan without naming it, for fomenting terrorism in South Asia, and justified his steps to  end Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, saying they brought Kashmiris on par with the rest of Indians.

In campaign-style speeches that appeared targeted at domestic audiences, Prime Minister Modi and President Donald Trump touted their achievements and hailed the friendship between the world’s oldest and largest democracies at the vast NRG stadium Sept. 22, where tens of thousands of mostly Indians and Indian-American supporters chanted slogans and cheered.

Article 370, “has held back development for people of Jammu & Kashmir. …. People there now have the same rights as everywhere,” asserted Modi at the Sept. 22, HowdyModi! event in Houston, Texas as President Donald Trump and an audience of tens of thousands looked on and cheered.

President Trump said that just as he had promised before his election, “You have never had  a better friend that Donald Trump,” in the White House. Cognizant of the large captive audience and an eye to 2020 elections, Trump paid lavish compliments to Indian-Americans. Trump retweeted a short video of the massive crowd at the NRG Stadium in Houston, remarking “Incredible!” He also tweeted “The USA Loves India”.

U.S. President Donald Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi participate in the “Howdy Modi” event in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“I want also to express my profound gratitude to the 4 million Indian-Americans in this country,” who enrich the culture and contribute every day to helping strengthen the U.S. developing new technology and creating new jobs, the President said. America has always been a nation of pioneers, and “Every day, Indians help write this story,” the President said.

The exhibition of bonhomie with lots of hand-holding and hugs, culminated in a victory lap with both leaders joining hands and intermittently holding their arms aloft, around the track of the stadium to standing ovation. Modi appeared in control of the agenda at the massive gathering, as according to some news reports, the walk around the stadium was unscripted and spontaneous.

Modi showered exuberant praise on President Trump while introducing him as the first speaker, saying the American President’s “every word is followed by tens of millions,” and that his name “is familiar to every person on the planet,” and even praised Trump for having “left a lasting impact everywhere.”

The Indian leader extended an invitation to Trump to visit India with his family, and Trump in his speech joked that he may suddenly land up to watch the first ever NBA match to be played in Mumbai next month.

Both India and the U.S. stand against ” radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump said.

Trump began his speech to chants of “U.S.A – U.S.A” from the crowds which stood up to greet him. He said Modi had done an “exceptional job” in India, and had high praise for the May general elections that gave Modi a decisive mandate.

Trump said he came also “to express my profound gratitude to the 4 million Indian-Americans in this country.”

Indian-Americans are the highest educated, highest earning minority in the country, and their  rising importance in U.S. politics was more than clear when Trump sat through Modi’s nearly forty-minute speech after delivering his own.

Close to 20 U.S. lawmakers representing both parties, jump-started the event by lining up on stage with brief speeches by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and senior Texas Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, was the only Indian-American lawmaker from among the four elected representatives currently in the House of Representatives, and an Indian-American Senator. Among other notable officials who attended were Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Cornyn said Texas was unmatched among the U.S. states, in engaging with India, and praised the large Indian-American community in Houston; Hoyer introduced Modi saying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also welcomed him.

Every speaker made mention of “common” values of democracy, the people-to-people ties, and the contributions of Indian-Americans to this country.

However, the U.S. and Indian head of state, spent a significant part of their speeches dwelling on domestic policies that they said had helped growth, reduced unemployment, and brought out the potential of their people.

Trump began his address like a stump speech, talking about job growth, unemployment levels going down in the African, Asian, and Hispanic communities. He also pointed to increasing Indian business investment in the U.S. that was creating jobs.

“Today we are seeing new history being made,” said Modi who spoke in Hindi. “And a new chemistry.” The presence of President Trump, the bipartisan lawmakers is a sign of the respect they hold for 1.3 billion Indians, he said.

To answer the question — “Howdy Modi,” the Prime Minister said, “Bharat mein sub achcha hai,” meaning ‘all is well in India,’ and repeated the phrase in several different Indian languages.

“Unity in diversity is our specialty. India’s diversity is proof of our democracy. It is our strength and our wish,” the Prime Minister said. “Wherever we go we take our diversity with us,” he added. “In this stadium, the more than 50,000 people represent our ancient history,” he said. “There are many among you who participated in the 2019 election,” which he noted saw 610 million come to the polling booth, two times the size of the American population.

A 21st Century India, Modi said, is impatient to become a “new India” and working to “challenge ourselves, we are changing ourselves.” He then trotted out figures to prove the expansion of electricity, cooking gas, rural road connectivity, bank accounts, to achieve “ease of living.”

“Today, it is said ‘data is the new oil’. I say data is the new gold,” Modi said, noting that 1 gigabyte of data costs 25-30 cents in India, way less than what it does in other countries.

In his concluding paras, Modi spoke of Article 370, which he said had kept development from the people of J & K. “People there now have the same rights as everywhere.” He contended that revocation of 370 was the result of hours of debate in the two houses of parliament, live telecast for all of India to see. “I appeal to you to give a standing ovation to the two house of parliament,” said the Indian Prime Minister.

People celebrate before a “Howdy, Modi” rally celebrating India’s Prime Minister Narenda Modi at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Then he took a dig at Pakistan.

“Yes, what India is doing is a problem for some who cannot manage their own countries. These people have made hatred of India the tenet of their existence,” Modi said pointing to Pakistan without naming it.

“These are the people who breed terrorism. They have been recognized as such by not just you but the whole world,” he said. “Whether it is 9/11 or 26/11 – where can those who conducted these acts be found?” Modi asked the full stadium. “We must fight the forces of terrorism. I am here to say strongly – that in this fight, President Trump stands strongly against this terrorism.” He urged the crowd to give Trump a standing ovation on that count.

Modi also promised American investors India presented a “great opportunity” for them.

Modi and Trump are to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this week. “I am hoping positive things will come out of it,” Modi said. Analysts have noted there may be a trade agreement in the offing.

Counter-demonstrators protest during a “Howdy, Modi” rally celebrating India’s Prime Minister Narenda Modi at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

Outside the NRG Stadium, scores of protesters held placards and shouted slogans criticizing Modi, as did supporters of the Prime Minister.



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