Modi addresses ‘mini India’ in Dubai
DUBAI // The world was black and white, stage co-host R J Mithun Ramesh told the crowd, and then God created India.
If the dazzling riot of colour that was Dubai Cricket Stadium on Monday night is any guide, he wasn’t wrong. The saffron, white and green of the Tiranga dominated, but every colour of the rainbow was represented – and that was just in the audience. The stage show was even more colourful, as traditional entertainers kept the crowd happy while they waited for the main event.
And what an event. The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi walked on to a raised dais, bowed to the crowd and was greeted with a roar of welcome from an estimated 50,000 Indians inside the stadium.
For more than an hour after that, he stood behind a small transparent podium and held his audience spellbound with a masterclass in oratory, his voice rising and falling in rhetorical flourishes, with extravagant hand gestures to emphasise his points.
› Hear Mr Modi’s full speech here: Narendra Modi’s speech in Dubai - video
The crowd loved it. “I’m seeing mini India here,” Mr Modi told them. “Dubai is not just a mini India, but a mini world. People from all over the world are living here. Everyone is attracted to this place.”
Not only Indian expatriates were impressed. The Emirati social commentator Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi described the event as “nothing short of a rock concert”. Mr Modi, he said, “has as much charisma as I’ve ever seen in a world leader. He emphasises and stresses on words, he can work the crowd.”
Mr Modi wished Indians in the UAE a happy Independence Day, which was celebrated on Sunday, during his speech.
He expressed gratitude to the Rulers of the emirates and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, particularly for a temple that he allocated land for earlier in the day.
“We are getting a place to build a temple in UAE. This is a huge decision. All countrymen should thank the Crown Prince,” said Mr Modi. The crowd responded with applause, giving Sheikh Mohammed a standing ovation.
Every week more than 700 flights come to the UAE from India, but it took an India prime minister 34 years to come here, Mr Modi pointed out.
“Sometimes I feel there are many good things my predecessors left for me to do. I have fortune to do these good things. One important thing for me was coming to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. You have the right to be angry with me, but the Crown Prince and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid showered me with affection. I can never forget that affection.”
Addressing India’s expatriates, Mr Modi said: “You have been here for 15 to 20 years earning your living, but you have been making India proud.”
He discussed problems that residents face, such as a technical issue expatriates have encountered with the Indian embassy’s website. He set a deadline for September 17 for the embassy to determine the reason for the problem. “I’m saying this here because the labourers are here and if I can’t do anything for them, I will be restless.”
He has set up a fund for UAE residents who find themselves “stuck or in trouble”, and unable to afford legal help. He spoke with authorities about school admissions.
“I know getting your child admitted in a school is very difficult here, and I have talked to relevant authorities here about this.”
Mr Modi’s speech also covered international relations and investment. Trust is essential in international relations, he said, referring to a statement issued by the countries earlier in the day and promise of investment in India, whose economy, he emphasised, was young and continued to grow. “If people don’t trust you, they won’t give you any money. This is very important,” he said. “India is full of opportunities and 65 per cent of the population is under the age of 35. India is a young country.”
Before Mr Modi gave his speech, performers danced to favourite numbers such as Vande Mataram, the national song, and Mile Sur Mera Tumhara. R J Mithun Ramesh from Hit FM and R J Tia from City 101.6FM kept the crowd busy for a couple of hours.
Then the prime minister made his entrance. The atmosphere was alive with chants of “har, har Modi” and people shouting out the prime minister’s name, Vande Mataram and “jai Hind” – “victory to India”.
Dr B R Shetty, chief executive of NMC Healthcare, welcomed Mr Modi on stage at about 7.45pm and said his visit was a “dream come true”.
Expatriates said they had many hopes from Mr Modi’s speech. Julie Joshi, a Dubai resident, said she had always been a supporter. “We are all excited. I took half the day off from work so I could be here,” she said.
Huzefa Patanwala, 17, a student at Indian High School in Dubai, was there with his parents to hear Mr Modi in person. The student, who belongs to the Bohra Muslim minority group, was excited to point out that many people from his community had turned up for the event.
Mr Modi also addressed the Keralite community, wishing them happy new year in Malayalam. “I’m speechless,” said Sheela Nair, a Sharjah residentt. “I never expected the new year greeting from the prime minister.”
* The article has been amended since it was first published.
Updated: August 17, 2015 04:00 AM