Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday praised a Sanskrit shloka recital by Irish children and took a dig at secularists back home, drawing sharp criticism from the opposition.
Addressing a gathering of Indian diaspora in Dublin, Modi, who made a five-hour brief stop-over en route to the US, said he was impressed by the way the children have internalised the message in the Sanskrit verses.
"The Irish children were reciting shlokas in Sanskrit and singing welcome songs. It did not seem to me that they were just tutored. They were able to express the feelings of the words," the Prime Minister said during his short speech.
"I congratulate their teachers. It's a matter of happiness that we can do it in Ireland. But had it been done in India, then questions would have been raised on secularism," he said.
"Overwhelmed by the community programme in Dublin. Recital of Shlokas in Sanskrit by children was very touching. Simply mesmerising! Great to see these children recite in Sanskrit," the PM later tweeted.
In Delhi, the Congress was quick to attack Modi. "We thank God that the PM has remembered Sanskrit language in Ireland. We all know what his track record is on secularism. We for the first time have an NRI PM," said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
Modi in his speech at Dublin asserted that India was among the top countries witnessing rapid economic growth and that it had set people thinking that the "21st century can be India's".
The Prime Minister said the World Bank, IMF and all rating agencies are quite upbeat about India.
If there is someone powerful in BRICS (Brazil-Russia- India-China and South Africa) grouping, it was India, Modi said adding that unlike earlier years when 'I' which stood for India was tottering and there was an apprehension that it will be replaced by Indonesia.
Modi also said that there will be "no trace" of poverty in India if it could sustain the current momentum of development in the next 30 years.
Modi seeks Ireland's support for UNSC permanent membership
Earlier, during his talks with his Irish counterpart Enda Kenny sought Ireland's support for India's permanent membership in UN Security Council and international export control regimes.
"I was pleased to exchange views on a broad range of international challenges, including terrorism, radicalisation and the situation in Europe and Asia," Modi said at a joint media event with Kenny.
He also noted that their discussions underlined the importance of closer cooperation between the two countries which share democratic values and are consistent advocates of international peace and stability.
Thanking Ireland for its support which was crucial for India-specific exemption from Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in 2008, Modi said, "I have now sought Ireland's support for India's membership of the NSG and other international export control regimes. India's membership will deepen our bilateral cooperation and strengthen international non-proliferation efforts."
Modi pitches for closer ties
Modi also pitched for closer ties between the two countries and said the bilateral economic partnership can have a “strong technology focus” on areas like information technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, agriculture and clean energy.
The PM also announced direct air services by airlines of both countries. “This will not only promote our business links, but also give a strong boost to our tourism ties that are already growing at 14% per year,” the PM said.
From reminiscing about the shared history of the two countries, the PM also sought liberal visa regime for India’s IT firms in Ireland. “I also hope that Ireland’s visa policy will be sensitive to the requirements of India’s information technology firms. I also conveyed our interest in concluding a social security agreement, which will be of great help to professionals from both countries,” Modi said.
Modi, who is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Ireland in 59 years made a five-hour stopover in Dublin en route to the US.