It was a grander scale than the Madison Avenue show in 2014 when Narendra Modi came to the US the first time as Prime Minister. Since his resounding victory in this year’s election that his friend Trump was quick to point out, his body language had only become more reassured, the handclaps firmer and the hugs warmer.
The venue also was appropriate, Houston in the middle of Texas, the cowboy country and also the launching pad of the space vehicles, combining both the power and glory.
The crowd was also more boisterous and the cultural show more varied, even if a little kitschy. After the bhangra and the dandya and kathak dances, when Modi took those long strides to meet the lawmakers lined up, he was much sure of himself. When he introduced Trump to the gathering, he pointed out the common traits and ideals for which both democracies, the two largest in the world, and reaffirmed how enduring and lasting these were going to be. It was the perfect ‘Howdy Modi’ moment and he relished every bit of it.
Modi took the opportunity to hit out at Pakistan over the issue of terrorism. ‘Where do you find the conspirators of 9/11 and 26/11 terror attacks? The time has come for a decisive battle against terrorism and those who encourage these. I want to stress on the fact that in this fight President Trump is standing firmly with us.’
Modi also took the opportunity to explain the reasons for scrapping Article 370 that had given rise to separatism in Jammu and Kashmir. ‘India has given farewell to Article 370 which allowed terrorism to rear its ugly head in Jammu and Kashmir. It has deprived the people of the state of development. Terrorists have been misusing that article and with its abrogation, people have got equal rights.’
Referring to some protests in the US, he said that this decision on Article 370 ‘has troubled some people who cannot handle their own country. The whole world knows who they are.’ While Modi and Trump are scheduled to meet in New York for bilateral talks he is also scheduled to address the United Nations’ General Assembly. During his 7-day visit Modi has also lined up some important meetings with business leaders, the strong diaspora and other world leaders.
Moid told the gathering that they were working day and night to realise their goal of a ‘New India’. ‘We are challenging and changing ourselves. Today, India is challenging the mindset of some people who believe that nothing can change. Now we are aiming high and we are achieving higher.’
‘This event is called ‘Howdy Modi’, but I am no one. I am a common man working on the directions of 130 crore Indians’, he said. ‘For us, 'ease of living' is of as much importance as is the 'ease of doing business' and for that, empowerment is important. When the common citizen is empowered, then the nation moves forward on the path of social and economic development.’ He noted that India was aiming to become 5 trillion dollar economy.
The Prime Minister said the recent elections had showcased Indian democracy's greatness across the world. ‘61 crore people, twice the US population, voted,’ he pointed out. He went on, ‘Our various languages are an important identity of our liberal and democratic society. For centuries, our nation has been moving forward with dozens of languages and hundreds of dialects. Diversity is the foundation of our vibrant democracy.’
Modi also talked about new chemistry in Indo-US bilateral ties and said, ‘This atmosphere is unprecedented and extraordinary; when you talk of Texas, then everything is on a grand scale. We are seeing new history and chemistry being made and witnessing new Indo-US synergy.’ Dwelling on the recent reduction in corporate tax by around 10 percentage points, that is aimed at spurring the economy, he said, ‘I met CEOs of energy sector yesterday; they looked excited by India's decision to slash corporate tax. They gave the feedback that this decision has sent a positive message not only in India but among global business leaders. This will make India more competitive globally.’
He invited President Trump to visit India. ‘Mr President Trump, I want you to come to India, with your family. Our friendship will take our shared dreams and our vibrant future to new heights. President Trump calls me a 'tough negotiator', but he himself is a master of the 'art of the deal' and I am learning a lot from him.’
Talking of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, he said, ‘On October 2, when the country will celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, India will bid farewell to open defecation. In the last 5 years, we have bid farewell to 1500 archaic laws.’
Earlier, Trump had tweeted on Modi’s arrival at Texaas, ‘Will be in Houston to be with my friend. Will be a great day in Texas! We’ll be going to Houston and we’ll be at a very nice big stadium packed full of people.’
Earlier Modi met Kashmiri pundits, and members of the Sikh and Dawoodi Bohra communities and they congratulated him on some of the path-breaking decisions his government had taken.
Meanwhile Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who also arrived in New York by the Saudi Prince’s personal plane is also scheduled to address the UN Assembyl where he is likely to raise the Kashmir issue again.
The Texas India Forum (TIF), a non-profit organisation which has organised 'Howdy, Modi!' event, had earlier tweeted: ‘The energy in the stadium is palpable as the crowd awaits Prime Minister Modi's address.’ The theme of the event is 'Shared Dreams Brighter Futures'.