US President Donald Trump has joined a rally in Texas to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is visiting the United States – a rare mass showing for a foreign leader on the American soil despite trade tensions between the two countries.
Nearly 50,000 Indian Americans and Non-Resident Indians gathered at Houston city’s NRG Stadium on Sunday for the “Howdy, Modi!” rally hosted by Hindu nationalist Modi’s supporters in the US.
Outside the stadium, thousands of people protested against Modi over the alleged human rights violations in Indian-administered Kashmir and other places targeting India’s minorities, including Muslims, who make up about 170 million of India’s 1.3 billion population.
‘Article 370 decision troubled some’
“Howdy, my friends,” Modi said as he began his address. “When you say ‘Howdy, Modi’, my answer is that everything is fine in India.”
With Trump watching in the front row and listening to the translation, Modi said he was “seeking equal status and development” for Kashmir, whose partial autonomy provided under Article 370 of India’s constitution was scrapped last month.
Following the revocation of Article 370, Modi’s government launched an unprecedented security clampdown on the region and arrested thousands of people, including senior politicians and activists.
Internet and mobile connections have remained suspended in the Kashmir valley since August 5, inviting criticism from the human rights groups.
“India’s decision on Article 370 has troubled some people, who can’t manage their own country,” he said in a clear reference to Pakistan, which controls part of Kashmir and has sought to rally international attention over the disputed territory.
“These people have put their hatred of India at the centre of their political agenda,” said the 69-year-old Indian leader, without naming Pakistan.
“Whether it is the 9/11 in America or 26/11 in Mumbai, where are its conspirators found? Not just you, the whole world knows who these people are.”
Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks, was killed by US forces in Pakistan’s Abbottabad in 2011. The November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai, in which 166 people were killed, have been blamed on Pakistan-based Lashkar-e Taiba group.
Modi, Trump praise each other
At the rally in Houston, the two leaders, who call themselves nationalists and are fond of fiery rallies, heaped praise on each other in an unusual joint appearance inside the football stadium.
To the beats provided by “bhangra” drummers in saffron turbans, Trump in his dark suit and Modi in a yellow kurta and vest made a grand entrance with arms clenched together to ecstatic cheers from a crowd.
Modi said he admired Trump for his “sense of leadership” and “strong resolve to make America great again”.
“From CEO to commander-in-chief, from boardrooms to the Oval Office, from studios to the global stage…he has left a lasting impact everywhere,” Modi said, with the US president standing by his side.
Amid chants of “USA, USA” by the crowd, Trump in his address said Modi is “doing a truly exceptional job for India”.
“We are proud to have you as Americans. We thank you, we love you, and my administration is fighting for you every day,” the US leader said.
“We are committed to protect innocent civilians from radical Islamic terrorism,” said Trump, prompting a loud cheer from the audience – including Modi – who stood up from their seats.