Ahmedabad: US President Donald Trump’s speech at the Namaste Trump event Monday was a giant cheer to India and its culture of tolerance and freedom.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Ahead of Trump’s two-day visit to India — his first — there were reports that quoted unnamed White House officials as saying that the President would raise concerns regarding the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) with PM Narendra Modi.
India has courted much censure from around the world over its decision to scrap Kashmir’s special status amid widespread restrictions and detentions, as well as bring the CAA, which promises to ease citizenship for non-Muslims from India’s Muslim-majority neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Since it introduces religious grounds for citizenship, the law has been labelled discriminatory by many.
Ahead of President Trump’s visit, four American senators wrote a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing concern about the internet restrictions in Kashmir and the CAA. One of them, Lindsey O. Graham, is known to be a close aide of Trump.
Last year, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee also held hearings on the situation in India in light of the Kashmir decision and the controversial NRC exercise in Assam.
In her opening remarks, Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asian Affairs, had said, “We encourage the Government of India to fully uphold the universal right to religious freedom; protect vulnerable individuals, including the 1.9 million people in Assam at risk of statelessness because of questions about their citizenship; condemn all incidents of violence; and hold perpetrators accountable.”
‘Committed to defend people from Islamic terrorism’
Trump’s speech Monday didn’t have any direct reference to the CAA or the NRC, but the US President said the two countries were committed to defending their people from radical Islamic terrorism.
Addressing a huge crowd at ‘Namaste Trump’, which was also attended by his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, the President talked about “India’s great tradition of embracing individual freedom, rule of law, dignity of every human being and where people worship side-by-side in harmony”.
Trump said his country will remain a “loyal” friend of India and called the Prime Minister an “exceptional leader” who works day and night for the country.
“India and the US are committed to fight terrorists and their ideology; that is why my government is working with Pakistan to crack down on terror groups.
“The US will always be faithful and loyal friend of India. Thank you for the spectacular welcome.”
“There is a difference between a nation that rises by coercion and one that rises by setting its people free — that is India. India and the US have a natural and enduring friendship,” he said.
The US President also heaped praise on Modi,citing his beginnings as a teaseller to say the Prime Minister was “living proof” of what an Indian could achieve with hard work.
On his part, Modi welcomed Trump to the “world’s largest democracy” and praised his leadership in containing terrorism.