In a fierce defence of the government’s actions in Jammu & Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said those criticising the decision to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution were “promoting terrorism”.
Mr. Modi’s comments came during his address, along with U.S. President Donald Trump, at a rally of over 50,000 Indian-Americans at the NRG stadium in Houston. Both leaders announced a joint front on several key issues, but articulated an entirely new script on cooperation on terrorism.
Attack on Pakistan
In a scarcely veiled attack on Pakistan, Mr. Modi said the “whole world knows where the threads from the 9/11 terror attacks to the 26/11 Mumbai lead”.
“It is time to fight a decisive battle against terrorism and all those who promote terrorism,” he added, asking the crowd to give Mr. Trump a standing ovation for his commitment to fighting terrorism.
In a show of support, Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump held hands and walked out of the stadium together, meeting cheering crowds, gathered to see the unprecedented joint rally by the two leaders.
Earlier, Mr. Trump said the two countries were committed to “combatting radical Islamic terrorism”, and linked Indian and U.S. positions on security and terrorism to show that bilateral ties between both countries are closer “than ever before”.
“Both India and the U.S. understand that to keep our communities safe we must protect our borders,” Mr. Trump said in comments that seemed to refer to the government’s resolve to crack down on human trafficking, and also endorsed India’s actions in fighting cross-border terrorism and actions on Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir.
“Border security is vital to the United States and border security is vital to India,” Mr. Trump added, vowing “unprecedented action” on the U.S.’ southern borders against illegal immigration.
Speaking about the withdrawal of Article 370, Mr. Modi said the legislation had “kept the people of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh away from development and strengthened those promoting terrorism”.
He also asked for a standing ovation for all parliamentarians in India who had passed the new legislation in both Houses with a two-thirds’s majority.
“India’s action within its boundaries are causing discomfort to some people who are unable to manage their own country. These people put their hatred of India at the centre of their political agenda. These are people who support terrorism,” he said, in another reference to Pakistan.
Mr Modi’s comments came even as Mr. Trump listened in the audience. On Monday, Mr. Trump is due to meet with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, and Sunday’s rally appeared to have set the tone for a fairly tough line the U.S. President is likely to take during that meet.
“On India’s concerns over cross-border terrorism, I think Mr. Trump went beyond the script, and certainly the expectations of the government,” said senior analyst at the ORF Ashok Mallik.
Both leaders made separate pitches to their respective domestic constituencies as well, and while PM Modi dwelt on rural sanitation, connectivity and easing business regulations, President Trump spoke of strengthening American manufacturing, rising employment figures, as well as becoming a major world energy exporter.
While neither leader referred to the trade issues between both countries, they raised optimism that they would resolve differences during their bilateral talks on Tuesday, and Mr. Trump said he looked forward to “major defence purchases” by India in the near future. He also announced that in November this year, Indian and US forces will hold ever-joint tri-services exercises.
In their speeches to the audience, where Mr. Trump spoke for about twenty-five minutes, and Mr. Modi for about double that time, both men made several warm references to each other and their friendship.
While Mr. Modi referred to Mr. Trump’s warmth and wit, Mr. Trump called PM Modi a “loyal friend of the U.S.” and “full of wisdom”. Hinting at a possible visit to India in November, Mr. Trump said he might like to come and watch the first match by the U.S. basketball league NBA in Mumbai. In response, Mr. Modi welcomed Mr. Trump to India, and said that the two men had made “history together”, and also displayed “chemistry, synergy and energy” with their joint rally.