'Namaste Trump': Modi introduces Trump to 100,000-strong crowd with 80s disco hit 'Macho Man'

'Namaste Trump': Modi introduces Trump to 100,000-strong crowd with 80s disco hit 'Macho Man'
US President Donald Trump's carnival-like welcome to Modi's India will likely prioritise pageantry over policy.
4 min read
24 February, 2020
Modi [L] welcomed Trump [R] to India with a colourful display [Getty]

A colourful crowd of over 100,000 people greeted US President Donald Trump and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, as the populist pair lavished praise on each other in a reaffirmation of US-India ties.

Set at the world's largest cricket stadium in Modi's home state of Gujarat, Trump basked in the biggest rally of his political career.

The event was the pinnacle of the day's enviable trio of presidential photo-ops, and was sandwiched between Trump's visits to a former home of independence leader Mohandas Gandhi and a tour of the famed Taj Mahal.

Nearly everyone in the newly constructed stadium in Ahmedabad in western India sported a white cap with the name of the event, "Namaste, Trump" or "Welcome, Trump," and roared for the introductions of both leaders.

The event title echoed that of the "Howdy, Modi" event held for the Indian prime minister when he visited Houston, Texas last year.

Oddly, the two leaders rolled out onto the centre stage to the tune of The Village Peoples' 80s disco hit 'Macho man'.

'America loves India'

Trump opened his speech in Ahmedabad by declaring that he had traveled 8,000 miles to deliver the message that "America loves India, America respects India and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people".

The boisterous scene featured musicians on camels and a musical medley of Bollywood hits and Trump's campaign rally playlist, including numerous Elton John songs that seemed to puzzle most of the crowd.

Many on social media were also quick to point out that the president tripped over the names of several of India's sporting icons in his speech praising the country.

"This is the country where your people cheer on some of the world’s greatest cricket players, from Soo-chin Tendul-kerr to Virot Kohl-ee," Trump told the audience, referring to cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli.

The president also referred to the Vedas - Hinduism's oldest scriptures - as the "Vestas".

Modi returned the favour by mistakenly calling the president "Doland Trump".

Pomp and protests

Miles away from the pomp and procession, Indian police in the capital of New Dehli used tear gas and smoke grenades to disperse a crowd of clashing protesters hours before Trump was due to arrive over a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims.

Anti-Trump street demonstrations also erupted in Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Gauhati, but not in the city where Trump was welcomed to India.

Trump's motorcade traveled amid cheers from a battery of carefully picked and vetted Modi loyalists and workers from his Bharatiya Janata Party who stood for hours alongside the neatly manicured 22-kilometre (14-mile) stretch of road to accord the president a grand welcome on his way to the newly constructed stadium.

Tens of thousands of police officers were on hand to keep security tight and a new wall has come up in front of a slum, apparently set-up to hide it from presidential passers-by.

On the way to the stadium, Trump's motorcade crossed a river where a barge was emblazoned with "TRUMP" and onlookers chanted "Modi!"

The stadium was packed with revellers, many of whom sported Trump and Modi masks, as they sat in 80-degree heat.

Scores of attendees, particularly those sitting in the sun, streamed out before Trump finished his 27-minute speech.

Eyes will also be on whether Trump weighs in on the protests enveloping India over a new citizenship law that provides a fast track to naturalisation for some migrants who entered the country illegally while fleeing religious persecution.

The law excludes Muslims, raising fears that the country is moving toward a religious citizenship test. Passage has prompted large-scale protests and a violent crackdown.

Read more: Namaste Trump, Howdy Modi: Why Trump's visit to India is more theatre than substance

Trump has refrained from publicly rebuking world leaders for human rights abuses during his overseas trips.

He made no specific mention of the citizenship debate during the rally, but included passing references to religious tolerance for all faiths, including Islam. He also specifically referred to the United States' success combating “radical Islamic terrorism," particularly originating from India's longtime rival, Pakistan.

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