India's new prime minister Narendra Modi has received a warm reception from the Indian-American community at New York's famed Madison Square Garden arena, on his first visit to the US, 

Modi spoke before a crowd of at least 18,000 people on Sunday, and appealed for help from Indian-Americans to help develop his country's economy, vowing that under his leadership the South Asian nation would not look back.

He revealed plans to simplify the immigration bureaucracy for Indians living abroad, and called on them to "join hands to serve our mother India".

A live-feed of the event was shown in New York's Times Square, where at least 800 people gathered.

About 30 US politicians also attended the event, marking a major change after Washington denied Modi a visa in 2005 for his alleged complicity in sectarian violence in his home state of Gujarat in 2002.

On Monday, Modi will meet with US President Barack Obama at the White House, a meeting that both sides hope can improve strained relations between the world's two largest democracies.

Several hundred anti-Modi protesters, mostly Americans of Indian descent, both Hindu and Muslim, gathered across the street from Madison Square Garden, chanting behind police barricades, "Modi, Modi, you can't hide, you committed genocide!"

Speaking in Hindi, Modi vowed to fight corruption and champion India's numerous poor whom he said he wanted o participate in the nation's progress.

Indian-Americans likened the enthusiasm over Modi's meteoric rise to that surrounding Obama, who captured the country's imagination when he won the 2008 presidential election vowing to bring change.

"We haven't seen a leader like Obama in our country 'til we've seen Modi," said Raj Thondepu, 33, from Jersey City, New Jersey.

Modi summons

On Friday, a federal court in New York issued a summons for Modi in a lawsuit brought by a US human rights group.
101 East - Modi the Messiah?

It was filed on behalf of victims of the Gujarat violence that claimed more than 1,000 lives, mostly Muslims.

The group offered a $10,000 reward for anyone who is able to serve the summons on Modi, even though as a head of state he enjoys immunity from lawsuits in the country's courts while in the US.

The Indian-American diaspora, comprising at least 2.8 million people, is one of the wealthiest such communities in the US.

The Indian-American Community Foundation, the organiser of the event, billed Sunday's event as one of the largest receptions ever held for a foreign leader in the US.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies