Trump, Modi vow fight on extremists at rally

September 23, 2019

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HOUSTON: US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday declared themselves united in a relentless fight against “terrorism”, vowing a close, personal alliance in front of tens of thousands of Indian-Americans.

The two leaders, like-minded nationalists fond of fiery rallies and sceptical of traditional media, heaped praise on each other in an unusual joint appearance inside a football stadium in Houston.

To the bhangra beats of four drummers in saffron turbans, Trump in his dark suit and Modi in a yellow kurta and vest made a grand entrance with arms clenched together to ecstatic cheers from a crowd estimated by organisers at 50,000.

Trump won his biggest applause when he told the crowd, many wearing the saffron of Bharatiya Janata Party: “We are committed to protecting innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.”

Taking the flavour of one of Trump’s own boisterous rallies, Modi later asked the crowd to give a standing ovation to Trump for his stance.

With Trump watching in the front row and listening to the translation, Modi made clear reference to Pakistan.

Modi said he was seeking equal status and development for Kashmir, adding that his actions were “causing discomfort to some people unable to manage their own country” and who “nurture terrorism”.

“These people have put their hatred of India at the centre of their political agenda,” Modi said.

Hoping to ensure that the rally remains bipartisan, organisers also invited prominent Democrats.

Steny Hoyer, the second-top Democrat in the House of Representatives, pledged that both major US parties wanted better relations with India — but gently voiced concern.

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2019