HOUSTON – Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Indian diaspora in Houston, Texas, on Sunday, defending his government’s recent decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and attacking Pakistan for its reaction to the move. He asked the huge audience at the NRG Stadium to give a standing ovation to the Indian parliamentarians who approved the decision in August.
“We bid farewell to another thing that has been a big challenge for 70 years…Article 370 [of the Indian Constitution],” the prime minister told the over 50,000 Indian-Americans gathered at the “Howdy, Modi” event. “Article 370 had deprived the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh from development and rights. Terrorists and separatists were using it to their advantage.”
Modi said the removal of the provisions of Article 370 would give more rights to the people of the region and “end discrimination against women and Dalits”. Parts of the Valley still remain under lockdown and several leaders, including former chief ministers, are under detention.
Without naming Pakistan and Prime Minister Imran Khan, Modi said the move was bothering those “who cannot even manage their own country” and were responsible for spreading hatred. “Be it 9/11 in America or 26/11 in Mumbai, where can the conspirators be found?” he asked. “The time has come for a decisive battle to be fought against terrorism and those backing it.”
The tensions between India and Pakistan have escalated since India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status on August 5. Pakistan, which claims Kashmir and has fought three wars with India over the region, responded by downgrading diplomatic ties and suspending bilateral trade. It has raised the matter at the United Nations Security Council, and threatened to take it to the UN Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice as well.
Modi also highlighted his government’s achievements, and said that plans were afoot to make Indian a $5-trillion economy in five years. Modi’s comments come even as India’s economic growth rate declined to 5% in the April-June quarter, the lowest in over six years. Core sectors, including automobiles and manufacturing, have witnessed a progressive slowdown in growth in the last few months due to weak consumer demand and dearth of investments.
Modi and United States President Donald Trump, who also addressed the Indian diaspora, vowed to give terrorism a tough fight. Trump in his speech said he will protect innocent civilians from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. He added that border security was important for both US and India. “India and US also understand that to keep our community safe, we must protect our borders,” said Trump.