Diplomacy

Trump Confirms Plan to Join Modi At Mega Houstan Rally Next Week

The September 22 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.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday that the “special gesture” of US President Donald Trump to join the upcoming Indian community programme in Houston signifies the “special friendship” between the two countries.

The Indian prime minister’s comment came after the White House revealed in a statement that the two leaders will jointly address over 50,000 Indian-Americans at the mega “Howdy, Modi!” event at the Texas city on September 22.

Before the official announcement, The Wire reported on Saturday about the likelihood of this unprecedented political “joint venture.”

Writing for The Wire, Seema Sirohi noted that the plan has been in works since late August:

“Trump and Modi’s political managers have apparently been in touch since the two leaders met in Biarritz, France on the sidelines of the G-7 Summit on August 26 and came up with the idea. Modi reportedly promised to buy more oil and weapons from the US – the kind of promise that makes Trump smile. And Trump agreed in principle to attend Modi’s rally.”

In a series of tweets, the Indian prime minister said on Monday morning that he is looking forward to joining the Indian-origin community in welcoming Trump at the event.

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.

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.”

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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 told PTI. 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 confirmed to 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 event.

Trump “immediately accepted” the invitation to join Modi 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”, the short form of ‘How do you do?’, is a friendly greeting commonly used in the southwestern US.

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

(With PTI inputs)