India's PM Modi, Trump vow to fight terrorism at mass rally for Indian-Americans

Photo: AFP

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 skeptical 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 organizers at 50,000.

Trump won his biggest applause when he told the crowd, many wearing the saffron of India's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, "We are committed to protecting innocent civilians from the threat of radical terrorism."

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

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 center of their political agenda," Modi said.

Some Democrats take distance

The event - dubbed, with a Texan twang, "Howdy, Modi!" - was billed as the largest gathering ever by a foreign leader other than the pope in the United States.

Hoping to ensure that it remains bipartisan, organizers also invited prominent Democrats.

Steny Hoyer, the second-top Democrat in the House of Representatives, pledged that both major US parties wanted strong relations with India - but gently voiced concern, pointing to India's historic "respect for secularism and human rights."

"Americans and Indians must strive to make our promises and aspirations a reality for all our citizens," he said with Modi at his side.

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