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September 23, 2019

Amid massive anti-Modi protest: Trump, Modi vow relentless fight against terrorists

Top Story

September 23, 2019

US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend "Howdy, Modi!" at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, September 22, 2019.-AFP

HOUSTON, Texas: US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday declared themselves united in a relentless fight against "terrorism," vowing a close, personal alliance in front of tens of thousands of Indian-Americans.

The two leaders, like-minded nationalists fond of fiery rallies and skeptical of traditional media, heaped praise on each other in an unusual joint appearance inside the NRG football stadium here.

To the bhangra beats of four 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 the crowd.

Trump won his biggest applause when he told the crowd, many wearing the saffron of India’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, "We are committed to protecting innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism."

Taking the flavor of one of Trump's own boisterous rallies, Modi later asked the crowd to give a standing ovation to Trump for his stance. Outside the stadium, Hindu, Muslim, Dalit, Sikh and Christian groups under the umbrella of Alliance for Justice and Accountability (AJA) Sunday held anti-India demonstrations and rallies.

The march, which started from Sikh National Centre in Houston, culminated at the NRG Stadium — the venue of the Indian premier’s public gathering. The protesters made their presence felt with a dress rehearsal along with tractors and trailer trucks decorated with flags and protest slogans.

The Kashmiri-American group, which planned the protest outside of Houston’s NRG Stadium against Modi, said India had violated basic human rights and cut off contact with relatives in the occupied Kashmir.

Leading activists to participate in AJA’s protest were Sarah Philips, Director of Operations at the Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective; Prof. Samina Salim of University of Houston; Pawan Singh (OFMI); Rev. Lisa Hunt, Rector at the St. Stevens Episcopal Church; Zach Chatterjee Shlachter (JVP); Daniel Cohen, Professional Communicator with a Deep Love for Advocacy; and Cesar Octavio Executive Director, For Families and Their Education (FIEL).

Co-Founder Sunita Viswanath said her organization was joining the protest because Hindus could not accept human rights violations in the name of Hinduism. “We are horrified that our religion which teaches vasudaiva kutumbakam is being hijacked by extremists and nationalists who are lynching Muslims, trampling on democracy and law and order, and arresting if not murdering those who are speaking out,” Viswanath said.

“We are especially appalled by the most recent nightmare of the Kashmiri people, and the situation of 1.9 million people in India who are rendered stateless due to the imposition of the travesty called the National Register of Citizens.”

“India’s crackdown on Kashmir comes even as violence against India’s social and religious minorities — Muslims, Christians, Dalits and Adivasis — has escalated massively in the five years since Mr. Modi has been prime minister,” the AJA said. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a stage and showered each other with praise.

“USA! USA! USA!” the crowd shouted, on its feet, as Trump took the podium. “PM Modi is doing a truly exceptional job for India and for all of the Indian people it is my immense privilege to be here with him today at this profoundly historic event.”

“I want to take a moment to address Houston,” he said. “The entire American nation is standing by your side…. Every time there’s been a problem, it’s been called ‘Houston Strong.’”

“Prime Minister Modi and I have come to Houston to celebrate everything that unites America and India, our shared dreams and bright futures. Also come to express my profound gratitude to the nearly 4 million amazing Indians all across our country. You enrich our culture. You uphold our values. You uplift our communities and you are truly proud to be American, and we are proud to have you as Americans.”

“We thank you. We love you. And I want you to know my administration is fighting for you every day…. You have never had a better friend as president than President Donald Trump, I can tell you that. The prime minister knows that. The ties between India and the United States are stronger than ever before.”

Trump praised Modi’s economic reforms, which he said have lifted more than 3 million people out of poverty. “In both India and the United States, we’re seeing something remarkable: Our people are prospering like never before because we are slashing bureaucracy and cutting red tape.”

He then went on to praise his administration’s economic record, which he said includes 70,000 new Texas manufacturing jobs. “Unemployment in Texas is currently at the lowest rate ever recorded in the history of our country, and unemployment in the United States has just reached the lowest level in over 51 years.”

Over the last two years, unemployment among Indian Americans dropped by 33 and one-third percent, Trump said. The crowd stayed politely quiet. “India has never invested in the United States like it’s doing today,” Trump said, “and I want to say, it’s reciprocal, because we’re doing the same in India.”

“Very soon Indians will have access to the best USA product: NBA basketball. Next week thousands gather in Mumbai to gather to watch the first NBA basketball game in India.” The crowd clapped, but only politely.

The United States is the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas on planet Earth, and No. 1 by far, with much of it coming here form the great state of Texas….Yesterday we were thrilled to hear about the Indian company’s pledge to purchase up to 5 million tons of LNG a year from the U.S., which could lead to billions of dollars of LNG exports to India in the coming years.”

“Both India and the United States understand that to keep our countries safe, we must protect our borders,” Trump said. “Border security is vital to the United States. Border security is vital to India. We understand that.”

“We are further taking unprecedented action to secure our southern border and stop illegal immigration,” he said, to cheers. “Illegal immigration is unfair to legal immigrants who pay our taxes, obey our laws,” Trump said.

Trump said the US and India were committed to fight Islamic terrorism. Trump said he understood why security was vital to India and he looked forward to defence deals with Delhi. The US president assured Modi that he's India's best friend and said he planned to visit India next month.

Modi took the podium first - to introduce Trump. “Friends, this morning we have a very special person with us,” Modi said. “He needs no introduction. His name is familiar to every person on the planet. His name comes up in every conversation in the world on global politics. His every word is followed by tens of millions. He was a household name and very popular even before he went on to occupy the highest office in this great country. From CEO to commander-in-chief, from boardrooms to the Oval Office, from studios to the global stage, from politics to the economy and to security, he has left a deep and lasting impact everywhere. Today he is here with us. It is my honor and privilege to welcome him here, in this magnificent stadium, and magnificent gathering. And I can stay, I have had the chance to meet him often. And every time I have found the friendliness, warmth, energy - the president of the United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump!”

Modi defended his government’s decision to scrap Article 370 removing the Indian Occupied Kashmir of its autonomy. He said the article was scrapped, as terrorists were misusing it. He also raised the slogan of 'Ab ki Baar Trump Sarkar'.