WASHINGTON: More than 600 diaspora Indians, dressed in their traditional finery, converged in Virginia for a reception in honour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and voiced optimism about the future of India-US relations under the leadership of Modi and US President Donald Trump.
Modi, in his nearly 50-minute address in Hindi to the diaspora, outlined the achievements of his government in the past three years, including introduction of social benefits like the direct benefit transfer scheme, subsidy removal, opening of bank accounts, technological advancement in areas ranging from space to agriculture and opening a number of sectors to foreign investment.
He said leaders across the world still remember the rockstar reception the Indian-American community accorded him in 2014 at New York's Madison Square Garden. He said there were proposals to hold bigger events this time also but he specifically wanted to meet the leaders who worked hard to organise the previous events during his visits to the US.
The diaspora event yesterday was attended by more than 600 community members, compared to the Madison Square Garden reception attended by over 18,000 people.
Padamshree media personality Sudhir Parikh, a medical doctor and long time community leader told PTI that India is moving forward under Modi's leadership. Modi "correctly believes that the Indian diaspora can make a big difference between US and India relations."
On Modi's first bilateral meeting with Trump, Parikh said he expects the two leaders to discuss bilateral defence deals, the H1B visa and other immigration issues and the Paris climate deal.
"Modi is an excellent politician and is almost like a businessman. He knows how to handle other businessmen. Trump is a businessman. I am sure they will connect with each other and the outcome of the meeting will be very positive and set the stage for further strengthening of bilateral ties," he said.
Anil Sharma of the organisation 'Overseas Volunteer for Better India' said there are high expectations from the ModiTrump meeting, especially against the backdrop of the uncertainty arising out of the Trump administration's H1B visa policies, and racist attacks against members of the Indian community.
"We really hope that our concerns on these issues will be taken up at the highest level," Sharma said.
Pragya Chisti from New Jersey said the meeting between Trump and Modi will be a "historic one." She said cultural exchanges between the two nations have played a role in strengthening bilateral ties.
"There is a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm about India's relations with the US. I expect only a positive outcome from the Trump-Modi meeting and for the future of the two countries," she said.
Before Modi's address to the community, a short film was shown highlighting his government's achievements and policies over the past three years, including the demonetisation drive, Goods and Services Tax, and the Clean India campaign.
The audience cheered loudly and chanted 'Modi, Modi' as Modi appeared on stage. After the national anthems of India and the US were played, India's ambassador to the US, Navtej Sarna, briefly spoke to the gathering.
Arrangements were made to take group photographs with Modi. Several risers were erected across the hall where groups of 20 people each lined up.
Modi then moved across the hall for photographs.