At the Namaste Trump event in Motera stadium in Ahmedabad on Monday. (Photo: ANI)
Seeking to deepen ties with India, US President Donald Trump, starting his first State visit to the country Monday, hailed “India’s rise as a prosperous and independent nation” as “an example to every nation”, called out “radical Islamic terrorism”, took an oblique swipe at China for seeking to claim power through coercion unlike India, and praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an “exceptional leader”, a true friend but a “tough negotiator”.
Accorded a colourful welcome in Ahmedabad where thousands lined the streets and packed the stadium in Motera on a hot afternoon to cheer him at the Namaste Trump event, the US President, who was accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, said both countries are “firmly united in our ironclad resolve to defend our citizens from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism”.
His speech, that lasted nearly half hour, was punctuated by applause and cheers.
Trump, who spoke of his administration’s success against the ISIS and the “monster” al-Baghdadi, said US and India are “committed to working together to stop terrorists and to fight their ideology”.
“Both of our countries have been hurt by the pain and turmoil of terrorism... In the United States, we have also made clear that while our country will always welcome newcomers who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorists and terrorism and to any form of extremism,” he said.
“That is why we have taken historic steps to improve screening and vetting of applications for entry, and we are working to ensure that anyone who threatens the security of our citizens is denied admission and will pay a very, very big, costly price. Every nation has the right to secure and controlled borders. The United States and India are committed to working together to stop terrorists and to fight their ideology,” he said.
“For this reason, since taking office, my administration is working in a very positive way with Pakistan to crack down on terror organisations and militants that operate on the Pakistani border”.
“Our relationship with Pakistan is a very good one. Thanks to these efforts, we are beginning to see signs of big progress with Pakistan and we are hopeful for reduced tensions, greater stability and the future of harmony for all of the nations of South Asia.”
“India has an important leadership role to play in shaping a better future as you take on greater responsibility for solving problems and promoting peace throughout this incredible region,” he said.
And then, without naming China, Trump took a swipe: “There is all the difference in the world between a nation that seeks power through coercion, intimidation, and aggression, and a nation that rises by setting its people free and unleashing them to chase their dreams. And that is India. This is why India’s accomplishment over the last 70 years is completely unrivalled, no matter where you go.”
Without mentioning religious freedom, he said: “India is a country that proudly embraces freedom, liberty, individual rights, the rule of law, and the dignity of every human being.”
“Your nation has always been admired around the earth as the place where millions upon millions of Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs and Jains, Buddhists, Christians, and Jews worship side by side in harmony; where you speak more than 100 languages and come from more than two dozen states, yet you have always stood strong as one great Indian nation. Your unity is an inspiration to the world,” he said.
“India’s rise as a prosperous and independent nation is an example to every nation all over the world and one of the most outstanding achievements of our century. It is all the more inspiring because you have done it as a democratic country, you have done it as a peaceful country, you have done it as a tolerant country, and you have done it as a great free country,” he said.
“America loves India, and will always be faithful and a loyal friend,” he said.
Recalling Modi’s humble background as a tea-seller, Trump praised him, saying he has a “moving story of an incredible rise, and so does this entire nation... Prime Minister Modi, you are not just the pride of Gujarat. You are a living proof that with hard work and devotion, Indians can accomplish anything, anything at all, anything they want.”
In his speech, Modi praised Trump as someone who “thinks big” and that his visit will start a “new chapter” in Indo-US ties to bring “peace and prosperity”.
“There is so much that we share — shared values and ideals, shared spirit of enterprise and innovation, shared opportunities and challenges, shared hopes and aspirations. I am happy that Indo-US friendship has deepened under President Trump’s leadership. This is why President Trump’s visit is a new chapter in Indo-US relations.”
With this visit, he said India and the US have strengthened their trust in each other and that “trust” is a very important aspect of the bilateral relationship. “When I met Trump in Washington for the first time, he told me India has a true friend in the White House,” he recalled, and said when Diwali is celebrated in the White House, 40 lakh Indians feel proud of being part of the US society and economy.
He appreciated Melania Trump for her campaign for a “healthy and happy America”, and her slogan “Be Best”, and said, “what you are doing is great”.
Praising Trump’s daughter Ivanka, Modi said when “you came two years ago. you had said you would like to come again” and that he was happy she was able to return. He also praised Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for “staying away from limelight”, but doing things which have an “impact” and “long-term consequences”. Kushner is widely acknowledged to be the brain behind Trump’s Middle East peace plan.
He said a “new India” is being developed, and there are “new opportunities”. Calling India and the US as “natural partners”, he praised US commitment against terrorism and said that they would work with “long-term vision, and not short-term consideration”.
Trump, who is facing an election year, also praised the contribution of four million Indian-Americans. “In America, we have come to know the splendour of Indian culture personally, through the four million Indian Americans living in the United States as our wonderful friends, colleagues, and neighbours. They are truly spectacular people. Indian Americans enrich every aspect of our national life. They are titans of business; the biggest, the best pioneers of science; masters of the art; and innovation of technology like few people have been able to see no matter where you go anywhere in this universe... Nearly one in four Indian Americans trace their roots right here in Gujarat. Gujarat is a special place,” he said.
The stadium was dotted with posters of Modi and Trump, slogans depicting the friendship between the leaders of the two countries, and boards welcoming the Trumps and Modi — India Meets America, One Momentous Occasion, Two Dynamic Personalities, Welcome Mr & Mrs Trump, Welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Welcome to the Prime Minister of India. People in the stadium were seen wearing masks of Modi and Trump.
Earlier, Trump reached Ahmedabad around 11.40 am. Modi was there at the airport to receive him and hugged him when they met. From there, Trump and Melania went to Sabarmati Ashram. Modi gave them a guided tour of Hriday Kunj. Trump and Melania also tried spinning the charkha at the Sabarmati Ashram where they were presented a replica of Mahatma’s iconic three monkeys. They left the ashram around 12.40 pm after Trump signed the visitor’s book.
After the Namaste Trump event at Motera, the Trumps flew to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. They were received by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Governor Anandiben Patel in Agra. Trump and Modi will hold bilateral talks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi Tuesday.