With US President Donald Trump in the audience, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday said India has “bid farewell” to Article 370 because it was denying the benefits of development to Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, and fuelling terrorism and separatism.
Addressing a 50,000-strong gathering at the Howdy Modi event in Houston, Modi said that after 70 years, “one thing has been bid farewell”. “Aap samajh gaye, na? (You have understood, haven’t you?) he said, to a loud cheer from the crowd. Then, he made it clear: “This issue is of Article 370.”
Modi said the decision has ensured that the rights enjoyed by people elsewhere in the country are available to everyone in Jammu and Kashmir, too.
He said the two Houses of Parliament discussed the issue for hours and passed the legislation with a two-thirds majority, despite his government not enjoying a majority in the Upper House.
At this point, he asked the audience to give a standing ovation to India’s Parliamentarians — the entire stadium rose, while the US President and the Congressmen remained seated.
Then, in an indirect reference to Pakistan, Modi said that those who cannot manage their own country have “problems” with India’s decision. He said they were “supporters of terrorism” and the “entire world knows their identity”.
Referring to “America’s 9/11” and “Mumbai’s 26/11”, and their conspirators and planners, Modi said: “Now, the time has come to fight a decisive battle against terrorism. And I want to say strongly that President Trump is standing against terrorism.”
Then, he asked the audience to give a standing ovation to Trump. At this point, everyone, including the US delegation, rose to their feet.
Earlier, Trump said that India and the US were jointly fighting against “radical Islamic terrorism”, prompting the crowd, including Modi, to give him a standing ovation.
This common stand on terror sets the tone and tenor before the Prime Minister heads to the UN General Assembly, where Pakistan PM Imran Khan is likely to raise the issue of Kashmir.
Sunday’s event was attended by Congressmen from both sides, including Democrat and House Majority leader Steny Hoyer. Apart from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, the US delegation included Governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin and Senator Ted Cruz.
The event was marked by the personal rapport between Modi and Trump, with both praising each other in their speeches. Modi called Trump warm, friendly, energetic, accessible, and full of wit, and referenced his own election slogan to say, “Abki Baar Trump Sarkar”. He said that Trump’s sense of leadership, passion for America, his concern for every American, and his strong resolve to make America great again has achieved much for the US and for the world.
Describing the event as “history in the making”, Modi said: “You had introduced me to your family when I came to the White House. Today, I have the honour of introducing you to my family.”
Trump spoke for about 24 minutes and called Modi one of America’s “most loyal” friends. Praising the Indian American community for their contribution, he said: “You have no better friend than President Donald Trump.”
Praising Modi for “lifting 300 million people out of poverty”, Trump spoke about his own economic achievements and “pro-worker” policies. “Economic miracles are just beginning,” he said, while pointing out that Indian investments are growing in the US.
“India has not invested like they are doing now… and it is reciprocal, we are doing the same thing,” he said. Then, striking a lighter note, he said that an NBA game would be played in Mumbai soon, and asked Modi, seated in the front row: “Am I invited?” When Modi nodded, Trump said: “Be careful, I may come.”
Referring to security challenges faced by both countries, Trump said: “Border security is vital to the US, border security is vital to India, we understand that.”
Modi, meanwhile, said that the event was called “Howdy Modi”, and then said his reply was “Everything is fine”. He went to say those words in at least six regional Indian languages. “Unity in diversity is our speciality, the foundation of our vibrant democracy… it is our strength, our inspiration,” he said.
Stressing that “new India” is impatient for development, he said: “We are competing with us, not anyone. We are challenging ourselves, we are changing ourselves… India wants to grow… There are still some people who think nothing can change… We are aiming high,” he said.
As he ended his almost 50-minute speech, Modi reiterated a new commitment to build their countries and invited Trump to visit India with his family.