After MEA Says ‘Namaste Trump’ Organiser Is a Private Group, Cong Raises Questions

A quick search on Google showed that there was no trace of 'Donald Trump Nagrik Abhinandan Samiti' before it was mentioned by the MEA spokesperson on Thursday.

New Delhi: After the ministry of external affairs (MEA) revealed on Thursday that the chief organisers behind the stadium event ‘Namaste Trump’ in Gujarat is a newly-formed outfit called the ‘Donald Trump Nagrik Abhinandan Samiti’, the Congress has raised questions about the sudden appearance of this group.

At the weekly briefing, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar noted that the public reception for Trump at Motera Stadium, termed as ‘Namaste Trump’ would be “very similar to the Howdy Modi event”. Kumar was referring to the joint rally addressed by Modi and Trump in Houston last September.

When asked about whether opposition leaders would be invited to ‘Namaste Trump’ just as both Republicans and Democrat lawmakers attended the Houston rally, Kumar demurred and said that that question should be posed to the organisers.

He then revealed that the organisers were not the Gujarat government, but a private new group.

“’Namaste Trump’ is being organised by Donald Trump Nagrik Abhinandan Samiti. The Samiti is taking all decisions on whom to invite,” he said.

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However, a quick search on Google shows that there has been no trace of this group before it was mentioned by the MEA spokesperson on Thursday. Till now, no website can be found which links to this organisation, nor can any media report be found, even from Gujarat, mentioning that this Samiti is organising the event.

The BJP government in Gujarat and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation have no knowledge of the Samiti, Times of India reported, despite the MEA’s claim.

The ‘Howdy Modi’ event, as per its website, had been organised by a group called the Texas India Forum.

Congress working committee member R.S. Surjewala questioned the origins of the group, as well as, its office bearers. “Why is Gujarat Govt then spending ₹120 Crore for a 3 hour event organized by an unknown Pvt entity?” he tweeted.

Arguing that the existence of this newly-formed group was not unusual, sources claimed that private groups have been involved in public receptions for foreign leaders, but not at this scale. They cited the examples of Nepal and Sri Lankan prime ministers who received a civic reception during their officials visits to India. The India Foundation has usually been the chief organiser of such receptions since 2014.

The sources added that the details of the office bearers of the Samiti would be made clear soon.

The US president is scheduled to land in Ahmedabad at around noon on February 24 and then travel in a roadshow to Motera Stadium.

“We don’t view this joint address as directly which is intended to influence the internal politics. We had earlier held public events, but at a smaller scale,” Kumar said in a answer to a question whether ‘Namaste Trump’ will be viewed as a political platform for the US president.

After about three hours, the presidential entourage will leave for Agra. They will arrive an hour later at 4.30 pm and walk around Taj Mahal before sunset.

The next day will begin with a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan. After laying wreaths at Raj Ghat, the US president will go to Hyderabad House for a formal discussion and for the signing of agreements.

As reported on Wednesday, Kumar dampened expectations of any substantive trade deal with US. “We do not want to rush into a deal as the issues involved are complicated with many decisions potentially having real impact on people’s lives and long-term economic consequences. We do not want to create artificial deadlines,” he said.

Also read: Trump Visit: To ‘Prevent Littering’, 3 Paan Shops Near Ahmedabad Airport Sealed

When asked about what the key deliverables of the visit would be, the MEA spokesperson said, “The visit has to be seen in the context of reaching a certain stage of maturity in the relationship, regular meetings between the leaders of two democracies and the growing comfort level between our two countries.”

Kumar added that India expects to deepen engagement between the two countries in the current, expanded list of areas for cooperation. “It would also give an opportunity to exchange views on regional and global issues of shared interests. Overall, our global strategic partnership will be further strengthened.”