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PM Modi outlines dream for India at Madison Square Garden during US visit

"I will never let you down," Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised the 20,000-strong crowd, saying the blessings of India's crores were like a blessing from God.

Saurabh Shukla   New York     Last Updated: September 29, 2014  | 10:58 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Madison Square Garden in New York
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Madison Square Garden in New York

The United States has seen the future of its relationship with India, and Narendra Modi is the name of the game. Prime Minister Modi rocked a capacity crowd at New York's iconic Madison Square Garden on Sunday, reaching out to non-resident Indians with welcome announcements on the visa regime while exhorting them to join the mission of realising his dream of India. The connect was strong and immediate as Modi took centrestage after a brief introductory ceremony that featured last year's Miss America winner Nina Davuluri as well as 41 US Congressmen waiting patiently for the Indian Prime Minister.

Modi, striding purposefully to the mike in an orange half-jacket and a bright lemon kurta, took a long sip of water. "Bharat Mata Ki" he said gently. "Jai", the crowd roared back in one voice.

FULL COVERAGE:PM Narendra Modi in US

And then he rocked the stadium, warming up in his usual style to an extempore speech that sounded as heartfelt as anything he has ever delivered. "I will never let you down," Modi promised the 20,000-strong crowd, saying the blessings of India's crores were like a blessing from God. The stadium reverberated with chants of "Modi!" "Modi!" When Modi mimed those who ask him of his larger vision and said he tells them that he's sold tea to get where he is, the cheers and chants turned into a standing ovation.

PM'S DREAM

There were many thousands watching on giant screens in Times Square and at 50 locations across America, and crores back home as Modi opened with a big thank you to all those NRIs who had helped his Lok Sabha campaign. The crowd roared back in approval.

Mars was a gloating point, and Modi wasn't one to let it go by. "It was cheaper than an Ahmedabad auto-rickshaw," he said, smartly adding that the US and India were in talks even around Mars.

Modi's dream for India was the mainstay of his speech. "Sixty-five per cent Indians are below the age of 35. A country that has this treasure, whose fingers have the power to connect with the entire world through the computer, whose youngsters are eager to make their mark, such a nation doesn't need to look back," he said. "The world is convinced this is Asia's century. American leaders have publicly reaffirmed this; some say it's Asia's century, others assert it is India's century. It's not an empty claim. India has the potential."

Reminding the NRIs about their connect with India, Modi said: "No matter how long they have lived in the US, most Indian-Americans know they now need to keep one leg in India."

It wouldn't have been a Modi speech without a mantra, and he had one right up his long sleeve, a 3D vision of the future. "India has three things no other nation has: Democracy, our biggest strength and treasure. Demographic dividend: a nation that has 65 per cent of its population below 35-yearolds can't ask for a more precious treasure. Demand: the entire world is looking to India because a nation of 125 crore is a big market with a huge demand. There is no nation in the world with all three. India will conquer new heights on the back of this wealth," declared Modi.

The 'red carpet, no red tape' mantra appeared in a different form too. "It's my opinion that the government doesn't bring progress. It can at best implement schemes. It has a limited budget. Progress is only possible with the partnership of people. Till now, India's governments took the responsibility of progress on their own shoulders. We aim to make it a people's movement."

'MAKE IN INDIA'

And it all led to the centrepiece: 'Make in India'. "I invite the world. I invite you all... To Make in India. If you want human resources, effective governance, low-cost production, you won't find a better alternative than India," said Modi.

No Modi speech is without specifics, and Sunday was no different. The prime minister made it a point to address NRI concerns, and promise solutions. Indians settled abroad who hold Person of Indian Origin (PIO) cards would get long-term visas as well as visas on arrival, Modi announced. He also spoke of merging the 10 schemes covered by the Overseas Citizen-ship of India (OCI) and PIO initiatives. "Indian-Americans who stay in India for a long time on tourist visas have to report to police stations but they won't have to any longer," Modi said. The clapping and chants went on for even longer.

AN APPEAL

Modi invited the NRIs to join the India story. "The first generation (of immigrants) wants to do something for the nation. To you, I would suggest going to my website mygov.in, where you can post suggestions. Visit the site, and see how you can connect with me."

PBS anchor Hari Sreenivasan was the other co-host with Davuluri; Anjali Ranadivé, the daughter of Vivek Ranadivé, owner of the Sacramento Kings basketball team, sang the American national anthem, while L. Subramaniam and Kavita Krishnamurthy sang the Indian.

The event included an acrobatic and laser show, a speed-painted portrait of Modi and a hologram re-creating the seminal speech of Swami Vivekananda who carried the message of Hinduism to the United States when he spoke at the World's Parliament of Religions in 1893.

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