Prime Minister Narendra Modi has welcomed the White House announcement that U.S. President Donald Trump will join the “Howdy Modi” event for Indian-Americans on September 22 in Houston, Texas. He said he was ‘delighted’ by the decision.
“The special gesture of President [Donald Trump] to join us in Houston highlights the strength of the relationship and recognition of the contribution of the Indian community to American society and economy,” Mr Modi tweeted.
Organisers of the “Howdy Modi” event, which is expected to bring about 50,000 Indian Americans to the NRG stadium in Houston, said they had been informed about the possibility of Mr. Trump at the event about “8-10 days” ago, but had been told to wait for a formal White House announcement.
The President’s decision has also cleared some of the worries over a plan by a group called “Friends of Kashmir” to stage a “peaceful rally” against Mr. Modi's appearance, as the U.S. secret service would ensure none of the protesters can gather too close to the venue.
Officials have also been concerned about 20 U.S. Congressmen, mostly Democrats, who have written petitions to the President and Congress, criticising the Indian government’s moves on Kashmir, and demanding an end to detentions and the communication lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir. As a result, those involved in the event are also keen on ensuring “bipartisan support”, and stressed the number of Democrat and the Republican lawmakers who will attend, highlighting attendance of Senate majority leader and Democratic party member Steny Hoyer at the rally.
“This unique event brings together the President of the world’s most influential democracy, the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy, and a bipartisan delegation of Governors, Members of Congress, Mayors, and other public officials,” a statement by the organisers, the Texas India forum, said.
Details of the format of Mr. Trump’s appearance are still being worked out, said head of the BJP’s foreign affairs department, Vijay Chauthaiwale, who landed in Houston to make preparations just hours before the White House announcement. Mr. Modi has been previously joined by heads of state when he addressed the Indian diaspora in Canada, U.K., Israel, Kenya and Sweden. It also remains to be seen whether Mr. Modi will speak primarily in Hindi during the event, as he did in the previous events in other countries.
Members of the Indian immigrant community in Houston said they were particularly happy about Mr. Trump’s decision, as one of the themes of the event, expected to be showcased in a film at the beginning is “navigating the complexity of having a hyphenated identity as an Indian and an American”. The Houston rally had been proposed in 2017 as well, when Mr. Modi last visited the U.S., but had been put off over concerns that a large gathering of immigrants would send a problematic message to the Trump administration which has taken a very tough line on immigration.
“As an Indian American, I am proud to see Houston preparing to welcome PM Modi. Houston is the energy capital of the world and the most diverse city in America,” Indo American chamber of commerce founder Jagdip Ahluwalia told The Hindu . “The news of our President, Donald Trump joining this is a sign of the growing importance of the U.S.-India relationship,” he added.