In a throwback to the reception he got at Madison Square Garden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was greeted by 40,000 spectators at a Dubai stadium as he delivered a rousing speech on Monday, hitting out at terrorism and making a pitch for collective progress.
Waiting for hours after a tough desert journey in double-decker buses did nothing to dampen the diaspora’s spirits as onlookers raved about the PM’s “positive energy”. The temperature dropped by 10 degrees Celsius to 36 by the time Modi began his evening address to a wildly cheering crowd.
“We (India and the UAE) have spoken in one voice against terrorism,” Modi said without directly naming Pakistan.
After a pause, he added, “Those who can understand will understand ... We are victims of terrorism for 40 years. Many innocent people have lost their lives.”
“Those who indulge in terrorism must be punished. That is the message resonating here today,” he said and emphasised that gone were the days when a nomenclature of good and bad terrorism would be accepted.
“Good terrorist, bad terrorist, good Taliban, bad Taliban, this won’t work. A decision has to be taken: are you with terrorism or humanity?”
At the beginning of his hour-long speech, Modi lauded the contribution of the diaspora, which he said made the country proud and through its remittances played an important role in the Indian economy when the country was under sanctions following the nuclear tests conducted under then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership.
In a speech marked by Modi’s signature flourish that began and ended with “Bharat mata ki jai”, he said the visit to the UAE helped build trust and Gulf nations were willing to invest Rs 5 lakh crore in India.
“I don’t go by the colour of passports, our blood has the same colour,” Modi said of the hosts.
Earlier, he greeted people from Kerala who attended the event in large numbers on the occasion of their new year. Modi urged the crowd to give a standing ovation to the crown prince of the UAE, to which they readily obliged.
“Modi gives a positive energy. That is important for us to do better in life. That’s why I am here,” said Tapan Sikadar from Kolkata, an engineer working in Dubai.
Muraleedharan, who works at the Oberoi hotel where the PM checked in, said Modi’s energy was infectious while Ruchi K from Chennai said the diaspora was optimistic about India’s future.
“Give him more time, he can change things, I believe,” Ruchi K said. “But he should get others with him to work harder for that.”
Highlights of PM's address
#Today in Dubai I am seeing a mini-India
# You are those people who have worked hard and are working here for many years. You are enhancing India's pride.
# Sanctions were put on India after the nuclear tests. That time, Vajpayee ji had asked Indians all over the world to help the nation. Responding to Atal ji's call, the role played by those working in the Gulf was exemplary. I can say proudly that when Vajpayee called for help, the Indian labourers in UAE helped the most.
# People in large numbers from Kerala are settled here. I am specially mentioning talking about them due to the New Year festival today.
# Every week, more than 700 flights land here from India. But it took 34 years for an Indian PM to come here.
# The Crown Prince of UAE came to receive me with his five brothers at the airport. This is the honour to 1.25 billion Indians, this is an honour for India's changed image.
#Innocent people are killed in the name of religion. In such a time, Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince has allotted land for a temple for the Indian community. This is a big decision, a big gift.
# Crown Prince of UAE supports India’s position on terror.
# Those who indulge in terror must be punished and this is the message that has resonated from here today.
# UAE has supported India's candidature for permanent membership at UN Security Council.
# India has suffered a lot due to terrorism. Good Taliban, Bad Taliban...Good Terror, Bad Terror...this wont work. A decision has to be taken are you with terrorism or with humanity.
# I want to talk about Nagaland...whatever the situation may be, the solution to everything is through dialogue.
# Our effort has been to take India to new heights of progress and maintain a strong friendship with our neighbouring countries.
# We have defined the border with Bangladesh for the first time since Independence.
# We work, not with arrogance of being big, but move shoulder to shoulder with everyone towards development.
# We want a second green revolution in India.
# World's inclination towards India has increased, we must take advantage of this and take our nation to new heights of development.
# The Government of India has created an online platform 'MADAD' to assist all of you as well as an e-migrant portal.