Making a strong pitch for India as a destination for foreign investors, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reminded global business leaders that Indian democracy, Indian companies and the Indian judiciary were all comfortable conducting business in English. The Prime Minister, speaking at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York City, said this gave potential investors confidence.
"Our democracy and judiciary, and reliance on English, gives investors' confidence. Someone sitting in the United States or somebody else sitting in the United Kingdom can be confident that everyone has the same understanding," PM Modi told Michael Bloomberg, the CEO of Bloomberg L.P.
The Prime Minister also spoke about language at 'Howdy, Modi!', a public event in Houston on Sunday where he addressed a crowd of more than 50,000 people.
"For centuries, our nation has progressed with the co-existence of several languages, and several dialects. Even today, these are the mother-tongue of crores of people," he said.
The PM's statements are being seen as both attempts to connect with the diverse Indian community in the US and with potential investors.
Only days before the Prime Minister was to leave for his US visit, Home Minister Amit Shah's appeal to unify India with Hindi drew sharp reactions from regional leaders who saw it as an attempt to impose the language on non-Hindi speaking states.
"Today, if there is one language that has the ability to string the nation together in unity, it is the Hindi language which is the most widely-spoken and understood language in India," Mr Shah had said.
Tamil Nadu led the charge against Mr Shah's appeal with Leader of Opposition and DMK chief MK Stalin asserting Hindi could not be imposed on the southern states. "This is India, not Hindia," he declared.
South actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan made an emotional appeal, warning the centre not to start a language war that "India or Tamil Nadu doesn't need or deserve".
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Kerala Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also issued warnings against the forced imposition of Hindi. Warning notes were also sounded by Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa, a senior BJP leader.
Amit Shah later clarified he never asked for the imposition of Hindi over regional languages.
The imposition of Hindi in non-Hindi speaking states is an emotive issue, particularly in South India. It has long been opposed by Tamil Nadu, which has seen several anti-Hindi protests over the past few decades.