Using the terms Indians and Hindus interchangeably, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump told a rally of Hindu-Americans on Saturday that there would be a “phenomenal future” for India and the United States under his administration, while raging against the dangers from “radical Islamic terrorism” facing them.
In what was arguably the first country- and ethno-religion specific rally ever addressed by a US Presidential candidate, Trump kept his word while turning up at an anti-terrorism charity event organized by the Republican Hindu Coalition in this New Jersey suburb with a large ethnic Indian population, telling a crowd of about 5000 desis that he is a “big fan of India and big fan of Hindu.”
“If I am elected President, the Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in White House,” Trump told the gathering, many of whom had soaked up two hours of kitschy Bollywood entertainment before his arrival. After lighting a lamp on the stage at the cavernous Raritan Center, Trump said he became familiar with India and Indians because he had two “massive” projects in India, both “very successful with very wonderful partners,” and in which he became involved because he had “great confidence in India.”
“Incredible people and incredible country,” Trump gushed, raining down superlatives as he praised the Indian and Hindu ethos of hard work, education and enterprise, while relating how he went to India 19 months ago and looked forward to going back “many, many times.”
“Generations of Indians and Hindu-Americans have strengthened our country…their values of hard work, education and enterprise have truly enriched our nation and we will be celebrating a Trump administration together,” the maverick candidate raved, showing no sign of his signature rants against open borders and illegal immigrants that characterize many of his campaign appearances.
The reason was not hard to fathom. In his eyes, Indian-Americans mostly come through the legal route and add to the US economy even though America has bled jobs to India, mainly on account of Washington’s policies. Indian-Americans, Trump said, have the highest level of college education and entrepreneurship and he was going to make it even better for them by lowering taxes, eliminating regulations and bureaucracy.
At a broader, geo-political level, Trump pledged a deeper diplomatic and military relationship with India surpassing that brought about by previous administrations.
“They are pro-Pakistan…they don’t mind that so much funding in a Democratic administration goes to Pakistan which is a terrorist state. Donald Trump will stop that,” raged Aruna Pal, a New Jersey physician who said she had been a Democrat till the recent spate of terrorist attacks in India.
It was box that Trump himself ticked off when he said India has seen first hand the brutality of terrorism and cross-border violence. Although he did not specifically mention Pakistan, he cited the attacks on Mumbai (“a place that I love and understand”) and on the Indian parliament, in pledging closer cooperation between the two countries.