In a blockbuster ceremony, in front of nearly 60, 000 eager fans, at the iconic Wembley Stadium, home to rock concerts, and England’s national soccer team, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, India’s diversity was the country’s “strength and pride,” and underlined the importance of peaceful co-existence. The event was themed ‘Two Great Nations, One Glorious Future’. This comment came in the wake of the government facing attacks over the issue of intolerance. Modi also said that, there is no reason for India to remain poor, asserting “we harbor poverty for no reason.”
“India is full of diversity. This diversity is our pride and it is our strength. Diversity is the speciality of India.” he said, adding that despite the country being home to diverse religions, over 100 languages and 1,500 dialects Indians have proved how to live together.
Reaching out to the larger Indian diaspora during his three-day visit to the UK – the first by an Indian PM in 10 years – Modi got a rapturous welcome when he reached one of Britain’s most famous sporting venues. “Your warm welcome makes me feel home,” Modi told the biggest gathering of Indian diaspora he has ever addressed since assuming office in May 2014.
Modi was introduced to the gathering by British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose wife Samantha, draped in a saree, was also present. Cameron greeted the assembled audience with a “Namaste” which drew loud cheers and followed up with another greeting “kem cho’ (How are you?) Wembley” in Gujarati. He renewed his pitch for India getting a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. “When it comes to UN we know what needs to happen – India with a permanent seat at the UN Security Council,” Cameron said.
Britain has a 1.5 million-strong Indian diaspora population. The event was held in a carnival like atmosphere, following Diwali celebrations. Performers included Indian-origin pop star Jay Sean, popular Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor, of ‘Baby Doll’ fame, and Alisha Chinoi, who belted out her famous ‘Made in India’, along with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
A dynamic cultural show showcasing dance styles prevailing across India, besides a variety of dance mixes with Bollywood songs, was on display. The audience also heard classical, folk, and contemporary music performances. There was also a performance by Scottish bagpipers. Special ‘ModiExpress’ buses were deployed to transport the attendees from across the UK.
Modi, who acknowledged that terrorism is a challenge to both India and the UK, asserted that the Sufi tradition is the best antidote to terrorism and anybody who understood the message of this tenet would not have picked up the gun. “Kabir and Rahim have been our inspirations. Sufi tradition is the best antidote to terrorism,” he said, adding the two main challenges facing the world today are terrorism and global warming.
Modi said that, his experience in the office in the last 18 months has made it clear to him that there is no reason for India to remain poor. “There is no reason for India to remain poor, we harbor poverty for no reason. I wonder why we have started pampering poverty” he said, adding that India’s demographic profile is predominantly consists of youth, and hence nobody can stall the country’s development. “65 per cent of the population of the country consists of people below 35 years. India is full of youth and a country which has so many youth cannot continue to lag behind. Nobody can halt its march to development,” he said.