Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States started on a tremendous high with the highly successful “Howdy Modi” event in Houston, Texas; where he shared the stage with President Donald Trump and addressed a crowd of more than 50,000 Indian-Americans.
The Prime Minister has addressed the Indian America community in the US before- at the Madison Square Gardens in New York in 2014 and in San Jose in 2015, but President Trump’s presence put the Houston event in a qualitatively higher category. The presence of several Congressmen and Senators including senior Democrat, Congressman Steny Hoyer underlined the bipartisan nature of support for the India- US partnership.
While introducing President Trump, Prime Minister Modi thanked him warmly for his presence at an event that represented the “heartbeat of two largest democracies.” Addressing him as “my friend, a friend of India and a great American President” he expressed admiration for the President’s leadership and resolve to Make America Great Again.
President Trump described the event as “profoundly historical” and a celebration of all that unites India and the US. He expressed admiration for Prime Minister Modi’s leadership and lauded his success in lifting 300 million people out of poverty. He paid compliments to the four million strong Indian American community, hard-working pioneers in “medicine, founding new business and providing jobs to thousands.” Commenting that the India-US relationship had never been stronger, he highlighted energy cooperation, security and defense cooperation and space cooperation. A standing ovation greeted his statement that the two countries would stand together against radicalism and terrorism. He also appreciated investments being made in the United States by Indian companies.
In a rousing speech, Prime Minister Modi presented his vision of India’s development saying that “we are challenging ourselves, we are changing ourselves…” The prime minister pointed out that in the last five years rural sanitation had moved from 38% coverage to 99% with the building of 110 million toilets; 150 million new cooking gas connections had been added; rural connectivity had increased from 55 to 97% and there was a hundred percent banking coverage. Digital India had made data affordable and contributed to the ease of doing business. Describing the Indian economy as one of low inflation, low fiscal deficit and high growth he pointed to plans to increase infrastructure spending, investments and exports as India’s strives to become a five-trillion dollar economy. Eased norms in several sectors had made India a much better destination for foreign direct investment.
India had said farewell to several out-dated regulations and practices. India had also bid farewell to Article 370, a 70-year-old law which had deprived the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh from the benefits of development and was being used by separatists and terrorists.
Calling for a decisive fight against the perpetrators and sponsors of terrorism, the Prime Minister made a veiled reference to Pakistan saying “Whether it is the perpetrators of the 9/11 (September 2001) terrorist attack (against the US) of the 26/11 (November 2008) attacks in India, where were the plotters of these attacks found?”
THE Indian Prime Minister demonstrated India’s cultural diversity by saying “everything is fine” in several India languages as his response to the question of “Howdy Modi”. This diversity is the core and inspiration of India’s democracy, he said.
The Howdy Modi event has set the stage for further discussions between the two leaders when they meet in a formal bilateral setting in New York. The event will no doubt be remembered as a unique demonstration of the warmth and strength of the relationship between India and the United States.
Earlier, Prime Minister arrived in Houston and held a roundtable meeting with Chief Executive officers of energy companies. The discussions focussed on working together for energy security and expanding mutual investment opportunities between India & US. The Prime Minister also met with expatriate Indian communities.
Mr. Modi has arrived in New York, where he would be addressing the 74th UN General Assembly and attending various bilateral meetings.
Script: Amb. Navtej Sarna, Former Indian Ambassador To The United States