'Howdy, Modi' event surpasses expectations: PM, Donald Trump talk tough on terror, tout economy and swap praise
The way Modi built up to Kashmir and took a dig at Pakistan — without naming it — was also interesting.
The crowd loved the gesture, which went much beyond mere friendship between the nations and its leaders
The Pakistani establishment grossly underestimated Modi, his acumen and his ability to spring surprises
Modi’s ability to connect to his people would be remembered for long by Americans who tuned in to Sunday's programme.
More than what was spoken from the podium at by President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi about each other and on issues of shared interest: the threat of radical Islamist terrorism, securing borders and check illegal immigration, what stood out in terms of messaging to domestic and international audience was the impromptu decision by both leaders to join hands, hold them high and take a round of NRG stadium to greet the over 50,000 strong crowd in Houston.
It was Modi’s idea, promptly accepted by Trump. From the live visuals it was clear that the American secret service was taken by surprise and had some difficult moments in allowing their president take the long, unplanned walk. The crowd loved the gesture, which went much beyond mere friendship between the nations and its leaders.
What unfolded at NRG stadium, one of the largest indoor stadiums in the world, for about two hours — from the time Trump arrived and till the programme ended — was the first-ever decision by a US president to participate in an event essentially organised in honour of a visiting foreign dignitary. The fact that Trump sat in the audience after his speech, along with a host of congressmen and senators for about an hour, to listen to Modi’s speech has many connotations.
To the delight of Indians all over the world, all this occurred even as Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan is on a self-proclaimed “Mission Kashmir” trip to the US to discuss Kashmir with Trump and “expose” Modi. But the Pakistani establishment grossly underestimated Modi, his acumen and his ability to spring surprises. To the dismay of Pakistan, Modi turned the event, to a large extent, into an open celebration of scrapping of Article 370 with 50,000 Indian-Americans lustily chanting his name and giving him a standing ovation as a smiling Trump sat in the audience.
Asking the crowd to cheer and thank all the MPs from different parties who approved the abolition of Article 370, 35A and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into Union Territories with a two-third majority is just one example of Modi's astuteness. To further impress Trump and a host of other American lawmakers, Modu stressed that this occurred even though BJP didn’t have a majority in the Upper House of Parliament. The idea, of course, was to make it clear that the move had overwhelming support of the Indian political and social structure.
The way Modi built up to Kashmir and took a dig at Pakistan — without naming it — was also interesting. The theme was farewell: to social ills and practices, then built it up to the big one as the crowd began cheering. Modi then talked of the abolition of Article 370 and spoke of how the masterminds of 9/11 and 26/11 were traced to one country and how the move perturbed "those who couldn't manage their own country".
While one does not know whether there were any backroom discussions over what the leaders would say, Trump’s unequivocal statement on threat of radical Islamist terrorism won the hearts of Indians. “Today, we honor all the brave American and Indian military service members who work together to safeguard our freedom. We are comitted to protecting innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamist terrorism,” Trump said.
Trump sent a clear message to Pakistan by stressing the importance of securing borders: the endorsement of India's actions to prevent infiltration by terrorists and counter-measures like surgical strikes. His words also gain extra resonance at a time when India is in the process of identifying illegal immigrants in Assam.
'Howdy, Modi’ lived up to expectations. Modi’s ability to connect to his people would be remembered for long by Americans who tuned in to Sunday's programme. Modi said in 2017 Trump introduced him to his family and that it was now his turn to introduce Trump to his family. And then he pointed to the 50,000 Indian-Americans.
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