‘We know where masterminds of 9/11 and 26/11 were found: PM Modi jabs Pakistan in Houston
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called for a “decisive battle” against terrorism and those supporting it even as he called on the US to make the most of opportunities offered by his government’s plans to make India a $5-trillion economy in five years.
Addressing the “Howdy, Modi!” community outreach event at the NRG Stadium here alongside US President Donald Trump, Modi launched a thinly veiled attack on Pakistan, saying the whole world knows which country harbours hatred for India and nurtures and supports terrorism against it.
WATCH | Howdy Modi: Cheers, chants greet PM as he arrives for mega Houston event
He defended his government’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and reorganise the state, saying Article 370 of the Constitution had deprived the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladkah of progress and equal rights and allowed those supporting terror and separatism to take advantage of the situation.
Trump, who spoke before Modi, vowed to fight “radical Islamic terrorism”, drawing loud applause from the 50,000-strong audience and a standing ovation from Modi and the Indian delegation sitting in front of the stage, including external affairs minister S Jaishankar.
Hard-selling the Indian economy, Modi highlighted his government’s achievements – including the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax, low inflation, low fiscal deficit, easing of FDI in single brand retail, an average growth rate of 7.5% in recent years, and availability of cheap data, which he described as the “new gold” – and plans to make Indian a $5-trillion economy in five years, and said there would be lots of opportunities for Americans in India.
During his nearly 50-minute speech, Modi also hinted at the possibility of a trade deal with the US, saying he was looking forward to “positive results” in his upcoming talks with Trump on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Speaking about the changes in Kashmir and the need to tackle terrorism, Modi said India had “bid farewell” to Article 370 to bring about far-reaching changes. Without naming Pakistan, he added, “India’s decision on Article 370 has troubled some people who can’t even handle their own country. These are the people spreading hatred for India, who don’t want peace and are supporting and nurturing terrorism.”
“Be it 9/11 in America or 26/11 in Mumbai, where can the conspirators be found? The time has come for a decisive battle to be fought against terrorism and those backing it,” he said.
Modi said Trump was standing against terrorism with “full strength” and called on the audience to give standing ovations to the US president and Indian parliamentarians for passing the changes in Jammu and Kashmir with a two-thirds majority.
Social and economic development in India was now moving at a faster pace as the common man had been empowered, Modi said. In the past five years, rural sanitation had gone from 38% to 99% with the addition of 110 million toilets, the coverage of cooking had gone from 55% to 95% with 150 million people getting new gas connections, and rural road connectivity had increased from 55% to 97%.
“We are aiming high, we are achieving higher,” Modi said.
For the most part, Modi and Trump demonstrated much bonhomie and camaraderie at the joint appearance. They hugged, clasped hands, clapped each other on the back and had only the most eloquent praise for each other, the ties between their nations and governments and spoke of the “historic” importance of their joint appearance.
On display was the growing closeness between the two leaders, the easy camaraderie they have come to develop and share over their meetings and interaction, bilaterally and at multilateral meetings.
“You have never had a better friend as president than President Donald Trump,” Trump said, referring to himself in the third person. And the “the prime minister knows that”.
It was Modi who brought up the same subject before introducing Trump to the audience. He reminded Trump of a slogan he used as a candidate for the White House in 2016 — “Abki bar Trump sarkar”, which was version of Modi’s campaign slogan “Abki bar Modi Sarkar”.
Before their on-stage hug, they exchanged tweets as Trump, who was running late, sought to keep the crowd warmed up through a series of tweets about Modi and India. “Will be in Houston to be with my friend. Will be a great day in Texas!” he wrote, triggering the exchange.
Modi tweeted back: “It surely will be a great day! Looking forward to meeting you very soon.” Trump replied: “Look forward to being with our great India loving community!”
During his speech, Trump was effusive in his praise of Indian-Americans, saying they enrich America’s culture and uphold its values. He noted that Modi’s pro-growth reforms had lifted 300 million Indians out of poverty and both countries were prospering because they were reducing bureaucracy and red tape. Indian companies were employing tens of thousands of Americans while JSW Steel was investing $500 million to revitalise a shuttered steel plant in Ohio, he said.
“India has never invested in the US like it is today. It’s reciprocal, we are doing the same thing in India,” Trump said, adding his administration was working to expand US exports to India. The first NBA basketball game will be played in Mumbai next week while the first India-US tri-services military exercise named “Tiger Triumph” will be held in November, he said.