Edison, New Jersey, Oct 16 : Declaring he will be a "true friend of the Indian and Hindu community", Republican Party's presidential candidate Donald Trump contrasted the growth rates of India and the US and praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a "pro-growth leader" with whom he will like to work.
Speaking at the "Humanity United Against Terror" rally organized by the Republican Hindu Coalition on Saturday, Trump said: "I'm a big fan of Hindu(s) and a big fan of India -- big, big fan. Let me start by stating right up front that if I'm elected president, the Indian and Hindu community will have a true friend in the White House. That, I can guarantee you."
He added that if he becomes President, India and the US would be the best of friends and have a phenomenal future together.
"India is the world's largest democracy," he said. "And is a natural ally of the US."
Trump contrasted the growth of India under Modi with that of the US, saying: "I look forward to working with Prime Minister Modi, a pro-growth leader. India's economy is growing seven percent a year and we're not growing at all. We'll grow again, very fast, adding 25 million new jobs over the next decade."
Trump, given a warm introduction to the substantial Hindu community in central New Jersey, responded with one of the most straightforward platform speeches of his campaign for election as US President.
Trump highlighted cutting taxes and government waste, identifying and eliminating job-killing regulation, and restoring economic growth and physical security, especially against Islamist terrorism.
Trump told the audience of about 8,000 ranging in age from toddlers to seniors: "We will beat Islamic terrorism," and also mentioned the Uri terror attack linked to terrorists from across the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. But he avoided any specific mention of Pakistan in this context.
He did crticized China on economic grounds. He won applause with a promise of fairer trade rules and remediation of intellectual property (IP) theft by China. He placed the value of IP theft losses at $360 million a year.
Trump participated in lighting a traditional Indian lamp before his speech.
The event's main organizer, Shalabh Kumar, introduced Trump, highlighting Hinduism.
"Hindu values are all conservative," Kumar said. "Modi understands that conservative values create freedom and opportunity. Wouldn't it be great if we had that in America?
"I was a Democrat once," Kumar said. "I had pictures of JFK. Then in 1979, I had a chance meeting with Ronald Reagan, and life changed. He spoke in bold bright terms of winning the Cold War and restoring the shining city on the hill. He made me want to preserve the ideals that brought me to the US in the first place.
"Highly skilled workers have to wait for 15 years to emigrate legally," he said. "Now (Barack) Obama wants to give in to Pakistan. These are reasons I decided to form the (Republican Hindu) Coalition."
An Amritsar-born technology entrepreneur, Kumar, who co-founded the Republican Hindu Coalition, is a member of a committee set up by Trump for outreach to the Asian community.
Outside the venue, protesters held up signs denouncing Trump and Democratic Party politicians held a press conference to condemn what they said was his divisiveness.
Indian Americans, according to a series of opinion polls, are staunchly pro-Democrat and Trump's support has been slipping.
Indian Americans, according to a series of opinion polls by the National Asian American Survey, showed that Trump's support among registered Indian American voters slipped from 11 percent in May to seven percent this month, while his Democratic Party opponent Hillary Clinton held steady at 71 percent.
Organisers sought to address this by appealing to Indian Americans by combining the Trump appearance with a rally against terrorism, an issue about which Indians are deeply concerned.
The Trump event was precisely targeted. Edison and surrounding Middlesex County make up the third largest concentration of Indian Americans in the US, at 115,000 in 2014.
Many residents of the area also are staunch supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Modi.
Attendees at the event, which was also a fundraiser, according to the organisers, for Hindu victims of Islamist terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and Bangladesh, though, expressed support for Trump.
"He said what he would do for this country, what his programme was, and he did it without much bashing of his opposition," Peter Mehta of New York told IANS. "It was a good speech overall."
Raj Puri of Hillsborough, New Jersey, said he thought Trump made a good assessment of his audience.
"He spoke to what people have been asking about," said Puri. "Not too much, not too little."
Trump in his speech also homed in on another of Kumar's themes, that Indians in the US have the highest rates of education and entrepreneurship in the country, to make his case for universal school choice:
"Just imagine if each student in the (nation's) school systems was given a scholarship for the amount of money budgeted for them - allowing them and their family to choose the public or private school of their choice. Not only would this empower families, but it would create a massive education market that is competitive and produces better outcomes."