Trump to join Modi to address Indian-Americans in US

Washington: President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will jointly address over 50,000 Indian-Americans at the mega ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event in Houston on Sunday, which officials say is an ‘unprecedented’ occasion, reflective of the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between India and the US.

Emphasising the new bonhomie in the India-US ties under the Trump administration, this is for the first time in recent history that the leaders of the two largest democracies would be addressing a joint rally anywhere in the world.

More than 50,000 Indian-Americans from across the US have registered for the 22 September mega ‘Howdy, Modi! Shared Dreams, Bright Futures’ event to be held at the sprawling NRG Stadium in Houston.

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said, “It (Modi-Trump joint rally) 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.”

This would also be the first time that an American president would be addressing thousands of Indian-Americans at one place in the US.

India’s Ambassador to the US, Harsh Vardhan Shringla called Trump’s participation in the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event ‘historic’ and ‘unprecedented’.

“It is reflective of the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation that has developed between India and the US,” Shringla said. He said it was also reflective of the people-to-people contact that provides the ‘organic’ linkage between the two countries.

The ambassador said the two leaders addressing the event sets a bold precedent, which is unconventional and unique. “It would be quite a historic meeting with Prime Minister Modi and President Trump jointly addressing over 50,000 Indian-Americans, mainly US citizens,” Shringla said.

White House officials told PTI that a request for the joint address was made by Prime Minister Modi to President Trump when the two met in France last month on the sidelines of the G7 summit.

While India is not part of the G7 countries, Modi was invited as a special guest by French President Emanuel Macron for the summit. Trump, who enjoys a great chemistry and friendship with Modi, ‘immediately accepted’ the invitation to join him in Houston and directed his officials and secret service to make arrangements, officials said.

This would be the third meeting between the two leaders this year. The previous two were on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in June in Japan and in France in July on the sidelines of the G7 Summit.

In October 2016, Trump, then as Republican presidential nominee, had addressed a strong crowd of some 5,000 Indian-Americans in New Jersey, a few weeks away from his historic win in the November 2016 elections.

So far, Trump is the only presidential candidate to address the Indian-Americans solely during an election year. In his address, Trump had said that if elected, he would be the best friend of India in the White House.

The Houston event will be Modi’s third major address to the Indian-American community after he became the Prime Minister in 2014 and the first after his re-election in May.

The previous two were at the Madison Square Garden in New York in 2014 and the Silicon Valley in 2016. Both the events were attended by more than 20,000 people.

The ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event is being organised by non-profit Texas India Forum, a recently-formed representative body of hundreds of Indian-American organisations in Texas and other parts of the US.

‘Howdy’, short form of ‘How do you do?’, is a friendly greeting commonly used in southwestern United States.

Senior Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer would also join Prime Minister Modi and President Trump for the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event.

Special gesture: PM
US President Donald Trump’s confirmation to join the Indian-origin community at the Houston event is a special gesture that signifies the special friendship between India and USA, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi today.

In two tweets, Modi said he was delighted that Trump would join him at the community programme in Houston, Texas on 22 September.

“The special gesture of President @realDonaldTrump 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, #HowdyModi,” Modi said, responding to the White House confirming that Trump will attend Modi’s Indian diaspora event.