All eyes will be on Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he addresses 20,000-plus strong Indian-American community at Madison Square Garden in the heart of Manhattan on September 28. This will be the first time an Indian prime minister will be accorded a public reception by NRIs on such a grand scale.
In this interview with Manish Chand, Editor-in-Chief, India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org), Vijay Jolly, a senior BJP leader and global convenor of BJP Overseas Affairs, speaks about ongoing preparations for making Modi’s visit a grand success, the role of NRIs in enriching their adopted homeland and the growing public stature of Prime Minister Modi in the US as a leader who can walk the talk.
(Excerpts from the interview)
Q) Prime Minister Modi is going to visit the US, where he will address thousands of NRIs at the iconic Madison Square Garden. How do you look at the profile and contribution of NRI community in the US?
A) The contribution of Indian-Americans for the US economy and their own motherland India is unique. By their own specialization, in the country of their adoption, which is the United States of America, they have added value-added services for the US economy. In terms of specialists as doctors, engineers, IT engineers, and businessman, they have played a very magnificent role in streamlining and helping the US economy, and today they are a formidable force.
Non-resident Indians and people of Indian origin are not only employment generator, and revenue generators, but they also influence US Congressman and Senators in their own constituency. They do their fund raising, manage their offices, and play the role of a catalyst in today’s modern global times.
Q) Could you share some details of how many people you expect at the Madison Square Garden?
A) This is going to be a historic moment. Indian prime ministers have always been feted and greeted on foreign soil, but never before a prime minister of India will be given a rousing welcome by thousands of Indian-American citizens on the foreign soil, and that, too, in a stadium.
The Madison Square Garden, where the prime minister of India is scheduled to address a 20,000-plus gathering in the heart of America, has a unique distinction of holding cultural, musical and sporting events. This will be the first time the prime minister of India will be addressing thousands of his admirers, supporters, sympathisers, and also US citizens all over the globe via live web and telecast of his speech. So this September 28, Namo Programme in Madison Square Garden shall touch hearts and heads of not only a few thousands, but of millions across the globe.
Q) You travelled to the US recently and met a lot of NRIs. What are their expectations from the Modi government? What is the image of Prime Minister Modi among NRIs there, and Americans in general?
A) The expectations from the Indian government and Prime Minister Modi are bountiful. People do expect results from this government. A government which is resurgent, a leader who himself is a resurgent soul. I have been associated with the BJP and in politics for the last 36 years, but I have never seen the level of euphoria, enthusiasm, of motivation and high spirits of not less than fifteen thousand people we met in our 12 day sojourn in 10 major US cities, along with my colleagues. People were shaking hands, people were exchanging cards, they were getting photographs clicked, they were giving memoranda to be handed over to the prime minister and we all knew that this was the Modi magic mantra working at its level best.
The enthusiasm and the expectations are manifold, and of course everyone expects Modi to be firmly moving ahead on the path of progression, development, Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas (together with all, development for all), in his zeal to take India to the modern times.
Moreover, Modi’s visit to the US, where he will interact with US leaders, including President Barack Obama, shall usher in closer cooperation in the field of health, defence, infrastructure, renewable energy, and working together in the nuclear science and various other allied fields in which the United States has got an edge and India stands to benefit with cooperation with the US.
The BJP government has instilled a sense of confidence in foreign governments, including the US. They can now sensibly interact, engage and work closely with a government which is not hinging on the support of its allied partners. The majority concept of the Indian government which the Indian electorate has given the BJP and Mr Modi, also gives an added level of confidence to engage with India and its quest for all-round development.
Q) Until only a few months ago, Mr Modi was a pariah for the US administration and he was denied a visa for nine long years. And now, he is being courted and feted. There is a U-turn in people’s perceptions. Could you give a sense of what American decision makers think about Mr Modi?
A) I met two prominent American law makers, one is Edwards Royce, the chairman of the US foreign affairs Senate Committee. In my 45-minute meeting at his Los Angeles residence, he was very categorical that he looked forward to meet Mr Modi; and not only himself but along with the entire Foreign Affairs Senate Committee. He said: the US looks forward to meeting with Mr Modi, and that we will do our level best to put the most wanted terrorist in India, Mr Dawood Ibrahim, at The Hague International Court of Justice, and his enthusiasm was manifest.
I got the same response when I interacted with the Hawaiian Democrat, US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. At a public reception in Atlanta, which I attended with my colleague Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Tulsi Gabbard did admit from the rostrum that it was a big mistake for the US to have denied Mr Modi a visa. Mr Modi is a true democrat and his credentials have been stamped by the Indian electorate with a resounding victory. That puts at rest any apprehensions to the contrary.
And what a wonderful man Mr. Modi is, after his victory, and after he became the prime minister, when I asked him, “Sir, what will be your response to the United States of America which denied you a valid visitor visa to the US?” He said: “I will not be guided by the treatment which the US government meted out to me, I will work as a statesman, I will work as a sevak and certainly see that we do engage with the US with a bright present and bright future.” We need not be looking at the past, which gives us a few precious memories, but need to look forward, we need to surge forward, and we need to shake the hands of friendship, and, I think, Mr Modi on this US trip will win hearts. He won the Japanese hearts, he has won the Chinese hearts, he won Australian hearts and now he will win the hearts of Indian-Americans. His address at the Madison Square Garden will be historic since it will cover the wide length and breadth of the global arena. There is now a higher confidence level in the relationship. The recent visit by the American foreign minister, the American defence minister and the American commerce minister to India was unique and that shows the continuity in the US engagement with the Modi government in India.
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