Ending speculation of a joint appearance with Prime Minister Modi, U.S. President Donald Trump’s participation in the September 22 ‘Howdy, Modi!’ diaspora event in Houston has been confirmed. The President will also address the gathering – expected to be in the “tens of thousands” as per the White House Press Secretary.
“It will be a great opportunity to emphasize the strong ties between the people of the United States 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,” a statement from the Press Secretary said.
Over 50,000 people have registered for the event, which will be held at Houston’s NRG stadium. Mr. Trump’s possible attendance was first reported by The Wire on Saturday – which also said an announcement on the India-US trade package (reports of which were carried by the media earlier) may be made during the Houston event.
“This unique event brings together the President of the world’s most influential democracy, the Prime Minster of the world’s largest democracy, and a bipartisan delegation of governors, Members of Congress, Mayors, and other public officials,” a statement from Texas India Forum, organizers of Sunday’s event.
The joint appearance has been scheduled at a crucial time for US-India ties. A number of U.S. lawmakers, almost all of them Democrats, have raised concerns around India’s abrogation of Article 370 (special status for Kashmir) in early August. The two countries are also attempting to resolve challenges in their trading relationship. With the U.S. Presidential elections looming in 2020, Mr Modi’s presence could also help Mr Trump with the Indian-American vote.
Strength of ties and personal chemistry: Indian Ambassador
India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Harsh Vardhan Shringla said Mr. Trump’s participation reflects both the strength of the ties between the two countries as well as the personal chemistry between the Prime Minister and the President.
“The two leaders addressing the ‘Howdy Modi’ event is historic and unprecedented. It reflects not only the closeness and comfort levels in the relationship but also the personal chemistry and friendship between Prime Minister Modi and President Trump,” Mr Shringla said. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking member of the Democratic leadership in the House, will also address the gathering, the Ambassador said.
Protests have also been planned for Sunday in Houston. Some Sikhs and Kashmiri Muslims had organized a “dress rehearsal” protest in Houston on Saturday, The Houston Chronical reported. The Indian American Muslim Council, an advocacy group for Indian Muslims in the U.S., sent out an electronic notice and poster, asking people to join the Houston (and New York) protests against the government’s Artcile 370 action and subsequent restrictions in Kashmir, the NRC issue in Assam , as well as the treatment of minorities in India.