Houston calling with big diaspora event for Narendra Modi

Mr. Modi’s U.S. visit in September follows impasse in trade talks and rocky bilateral ties over U.S. President Donald Trump’s Kashmir statements.

Updated - July 28, 2019 01:15 am IST

Published - July 28, 2019 01:08 am IST - NEW DELHI

Photo: Twitter/@howdymodi

Photo: Twitter/@howdymodi

Improving India-U.S. trade ties, combating climate change and addressing his biggest Indian-American diaspora event will be on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diary during his U.S. visit in September.

According to officials involved in planning the visit, Mr. Modi, who last visited the U.S. in June 2017, will travel to New York and Houston, Texas, during the trip from September 22 to 26.

Meet with Trump?

A trip to Washington is not on the cards at present, the sources said, indicating that Mr. Modi could meet President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

After their meeting in Osaka, bilateral ties have been rocked by Mr. Trump’s comments that Mr. Modi sought his mediation on Kashmir.

They are expected to meet at the G7 summit in France on August 24 to smooth out matters. The Houston visit on September 22 is billed as the biggest diaspora event to be addressed by Mr. Modi in the U.S. thus far, with organisers expecting a crowd of 50,000 at the NRG Stadium, a statement issued by the Texas-India Forum said on Saturday.

Confirming the Houston event, which will be called “Howdy, Modi”, the BJP’s foreign affairs department head, Vijay Chauthaiwale, told The Hindu that Texas had one of the biggest diaspora populations and therefore merited Mr. Modi’s visit. In 2015 and 2016, Mr. Modi addressed similar events in New York and San Jose, with crowds between 16,000 and 18,000 at each.


In New York, the Prime Minister is planning to address the UN General Assembly beginning on September 24. A day before that, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will host the Climate Action summit. Earlier this week, Luis Alfonso de Alba, United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change, met Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar in New Delhi to discuss India’s role in battling climate change.

According to the sources, Mr. Alba invited Mr. Modi to address the summit, which he has not accepted as yet. However, he will attend a special event to commemorate the closing of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi, officials said.

Investment pitch

Mr. Modi will address the annual Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York on September 25. He is expected to make a pitch for investment in India, even as he will face questions on India-U.S. trade negotiations which have hit an impasse. In particular, U.S. IT companies have been upset by new Indian regulations on data localisation and e-commerce rules.

A diluted version of the data protection Bill, which is due to be presented in Parliament next week, may assuage some of those concerns.

However, issues on tariffs and U.S. counter-measures and complaints at the WTO are still to be ironed out, with a meeting of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal expected ahead of Mr. Modi’s visit.

In Houston, the business community, led by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston, hopes the event will pave the way for more business with India.

NRG stadium in Houston,Texas. File

NRG stadium in Houston,Texas. File


“The entire community has rallied behind this historic event and are enthused to make it unparalleled,” said Swapan Dhairyawan, chamber president, who had facilitated a visit to Delhi for the Houston Mayor and a trade delegation, and invited U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster to deliver an address in Houston last year.

“We hope [Mr. Modi’s] visit will lead to a direct flight to Delhi,” said Houston-based Jagdip Ahluwalia, pointing to the potential for Texas-India ties in energy, petrochemicals, chemicals, medical technology, aerospace and the space industries.

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