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India's Modi Gets Big Welcome in New York

  • VOA News

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures while speaking at Madison Square Garden in New York, during a visit to the United States, Sept. 28, 2014.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures while speaking at Madison Square Garden in New York, during a visit to the United States, Sept. 28, 2014.

India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi took on rock star status at a reception Sunday in New York, as thousands of Indian Americans cheered the leader during his first U.S. visit.

Modi's appearance came before he heads to the White House for meetings with President Barack Obama on Monday and Tuesday. Modi addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday.

More than 18,000 Indian Americans gave the new prime minister a rousing reception Sunday as he spoke from a rotating stage at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Modi assured the Indian expatriates that his government "will not do anything" to let them down. The Indian leader said there "is an atmosphere of hope and enthusiasm" in his country.

Enthusiastic supporters wearing Modi T-shirts frequently interrupted his speech with applause.

Attendees stand as India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives to speak at Madison Square Garden in New York Sept. 28, 2014.

Attendees stand as India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives to speak at Madison Square Garden in New York Sept. 28, 2014.

Modi won election in May, but his trip to the United States is a marked turn since 2005, when the U.S. denied him a visa for his alleged complicity in sectarian violence in his home state of Gujarat.

One Modi supporter, Manoj Lawda, said the New York rally, unusual for foreign dignitary visiting the United States, was a celebration of Indian democracy and the two million people of Indian origin living in the United States.

"I think this is a celebration, it's a celebration of two things. Firstly, it is a celebration of India's democracy, and through that democracy the leadership of Narendra Modi, and secondly, it is a celebration of the diaspora, the Indian community that lives around the world and the 2 million people of Indian origin that live here in the United States who contribute not only to the economy here, but contribute back home to India as well," said Lawda.

In contrast, several hundred anti-Modi protesters, mostly Americans of Indian descent, gathered across the street from Madison Square Garden, chanting behind police barricades, "Modi, Modi, you can't hide, you committed genocide!''

The charges date back to anti-Muslim riots in 2002 in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where Modi served as chief minister.

Later in the day, Modi met Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu American in the U.S. Congress. Gabbard, a democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, is apparently a strong supporter of Modi.

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