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 organisers at 50,000.
Trump won his biggest applause when he told the crowd, many wearing the saffron of India’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), “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. Trump has stood by the Indian leader during controversial decisions this year, including his revocation of autonomy for Indian Occupied Kashmir and his order for jets to enter Pakistani territory in response to a suicide bombing.
With Trump watching in the front row and listening to the translation, Modi made clear reference to Pakistan, which has sought to rally international attention over the disputed Himalayan territory.
Protesters gathered outside of the NRG Stadium with placards and shirts that said, “Free Kashmir” and accused Modi of violating religious freedom – a cause frequently evoked by the Trump administration.