Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend a mega rally to address the Indian diaspora in Houston, Texas, on Sunday. In attendance at the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event will be Donald Trump, who will be the first American president to address thousands of Indian-Americans at one place in the US.
When is the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event?
‘Howdy, Modi! Shared Dreams, Bright Futures’, the Indian community event in the US, is scheduled to be held at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas on September 22. Modi will arrive in the US on September 21 late night — he will first travel to Houston and then to New York from September 23 to 27. On September 27, the Prime Minister will attend the United Nations General Assembly, along with other world leaders.
Modi has mainly two engagements in Houston — addressing the NRI community at a stadium and a roundtable meeting with CEOs and top executives of US energy companies.
The NRG stadium gates will open at 6 am (4:30 pm IST). The cultural programme will begin and continue until 10:30 am (9:00 pm IST). The event will end by 12:30 pm (11:00 pm IST). The “Howdy, Modi” program will be broadcasted live in Hindi, English and Spanish languages followed by an address by PM Modi and President Donald Trump.
Houston is the fourth-largest city with a population of over 1,30,000 Indian-Americans. “Howdy”, short for ‘How do you do?’, is a friendly greeting commonly used in the southwestern United States. The event is being organised by non-profit Texas India Forum (TIF), a representative body of Indian-American organisations in Texas and other parts of the US.
“Houston has a very vibrant Indian diaspora and it’s a big energy capital. Energy security is a top priority of India,” BJP’s foreign affairs head Vijay Chauthaiwale said from Houston. “India needs energy, and Houston has lots of energy. There could be a strategic partnership,” said Jugal Malani, chair of the Texas India Forum.
Who all are attending ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event
The event has been sold out with over 50,000 people registering for the mega community summit. The live audience will be the largest ever for an Indian Prime Minister in North America and also the largest for a foreign leader in the US other than Pope Francis.
The most significant attendee, however, is US President Donald Trump. Modi said he looked forward to joining the Indian-origin community in welcoming Trump at the programme. US Congressman Brad Sherman has also urged his colleagues to attend the event.
When Modi addressed the NRI community at Madison Square Garden in New York in September 2014, US Congressmen had also attended the event. It is expected that some members of the US Congress are also likely to attend the event this time in Houston as well.
Trump’s attendance at ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event and the 2020 elections
The Houston event comes ahead of the 2020 US presidential elections, in which the influential Indian-American community is expected to play a big role. Trump, a Republican, is hoping to win over the Indian American voters by attending the event.
For Trump, the event holds significance to come back in power next year. According to the 2018 Asian American Voter Survey show, Indian Americans were more disapproving of Trump’s presidency than the average Asian American (which includes Koreans, Vietnamese, Chinese etc). On several key policy issues, too, Asian Indians identified with either the Democratic Party or its positions.
While Modi’s event at the Wembley stadium in the UK in November 2015 was attended by then British Prime Minister David Cameron, this will be the first time that an American President addresses thousands of Indian-Americans at one place in the US.
This will be the third meeting between Modi and Trump this year. The previous two were on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Japan in June and the G7 Summit in France in July.
Will ‘Howdy, Modi!’ impact India-American ties
The mega community event will be held ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in New York where Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will also be present. Earlier this week, Trump, who had offered to mediate in the Kashmir issue, said he will be meeting the prime ministers of both the countries.
Confirming Trump’s participation, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, in a statement, said: “It will be a great opportunity to emphasise the strong ties between the people of the US and India, to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the world’s oldest and largest democracies, and to discuss ways to deepen their energy and trade relationship.”
The two sides also hope to announce a potential deal on longstanding trade issues, including the GSP trade programme. The Trump administration terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary developing nation under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) in June.
India’s Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla has called Trump’s participation in the “Howdy, Modi!” event “historic” and “unprecedented”.
Congress’ reaction to Howdy, Modi!
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took a dig at the Prime Minister over the economic slowdown while referring to the “Howdy Modi!” event. “Howdy economy doin’, Mr Modi? Ain’t too good it seems,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi borrowed the words of British singer Elton John, “performers are all show-offs”, to describe the mega diaspora event.
In an apparent dig at the upcoming event in Houston, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said, “By showing glitter, saying 5 trillion, 5 trillion, every day or by doing media’s headline management, the economy cannot be improved. Investors do not come by sponsoring events abroad.”
At the All India Congress Committee briefing, senior party leader Rajiv Shukla, however, said it was a good thing that a US President would attend an event of the Indian prime minister. “It is a good thing. Donald Trump’s election is also approaching. There is a big Indian population in the United States,” he said.