Is Trump’s presence at ‘Howdy, Modi!’ a PR exercise?
New Delhi, Sep 18: The news about US President Donald Trump's decision to join Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the mega 'Howdy Modi' rally in Houston over the weekend is truly historic tribute to the contributions of the Indian-Americans. Not only this, Trump will also have a separate bilateral meeting with Modi in New York.
There are also reports that 'Howdy Modi' event has already garnered 50,000 registrations online with many more on a waiting list.
The White House had earlier announced that Trump would join Modi at the mega Houston rally, which would be attended by more than 50,000 Indian Americans, on September 22. "Trump joining Modi for the Howdy Modi event in Houston is a truly historic tribute to the contributions of the Indian-American community to the prosperity of our country and the strength of US-India relations," Alice G Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, tweeted on Tuesday.
So why is Trump courting Modi?
Apart from being a great to be part of a charged up crowd, we all know that Indian Americans lean more towards the Democratic Party.
Can he sway a significant chunk of the vote?
Yes, the Houston meet will be an opportunity for Trump to garner support from the indian American community ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.
Indian Americans have mostly been seen on the side of the Democrats though there have been people like Bobby Jindal, the former governor of Louisiana who are members of the Republican Party.
According to polling by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, during 2016 US Presidential elections, over 84% of Indian-Americans voted in 2016 for Trump's rival Hillary Clinton, making them among the most Democratic-leaning ethnic groups. Trump has a few Indian Americans working in his administration -Manisha Singh, Assistant Secretary of State in the US State Department being a case in point. She leads a team of over 200 employees in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.
It can be recalled that even during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump who took part in a rally in New Jersey, had famously declared: 'I love Hindu'.
The third meeting of Trump-Modi alone this year
Yes, the Houston meet will be the third successive meeting between Trump and PM Modi 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.
The engagements show the remarkable transformation of the India US relationship in a matter of 20 years. This suggests that Trump considers Modi to be his friend and ally. Though the strategic ties were seen as close, economic ties were seen to be something of an irritant because of Trump's focus on the trade deficit with India. However, this meet could see a transformation with the two sides possibly announcing a trade deal during Modi's visit.
Meanwhile, India is also looking to invest in the US energy sector. Moreover, Trump attending the Houston event is expected to send a strong signal of personal support to Modi at a time when several US lawmakers have expressed concerns about the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir ever since the abrogation of article 370.
Not only that, but the meeting would also send a signal to Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan who is to attend the UN General Assembly session in New York with the aim of highlighting what he terms are human rights abuses in Kashmir.
Reminder of importance of symbolism in US-India ties:
According to Ronak D Desai, Law & Security Fellow at New America and a scholar at Harvard University's South Asia Institute, with the partnership confronting several significant irritants at present; Trump's appearance with Modi is a welcome reminder of the importance of symbolism in US-India ties and the strong foundation underlying them.
"President Trump's appearance with Prime Minister Modi in Houston confers tremendous political benefits to both leaders at home and abroad," he said.
The news that President Trump will appear alongside Prime Minister Modi at Houston just weeks after the two leaders met at the G-7 is a powerful reminder that the overall foundation of the US-India strategic partnership remains strong, regardless of ongoing bilateral challenges, Desai observed.
The bipartisan consensus around the relationship remains firmly intact despite being tested in recent years. The event - like the relationship - enjoys strong, widespread support from both Democrats and Republicans alike at virtually every level, he said.
The last 15 years have illustrated over and over again that while personalities matter, the strategic partnership continues to grow and evolve regardless of who occupies the White House in Washington or the Prime Minister's residence in Delhi, he said.
Stating that Trump's appearance with Modi in Houston is a significant win for India diplomatically, Desai noted that it will signal clear support for India at a time when New Delhi is inviting increasing scrutiny over its handling of Kashmir.
Howdy Modi Houston event date, time, venue:
Howdy Modi' event will be held at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The date for the mega event has been scheduled on September 22, Sunday. The timing of Howdy Modi event in Houston is fixed at 10 am (local time), or 8.30 pm (IST). The event will begin from 10 am (local time) or 8.30 pm (IST) and is scheduled to end at 1 pm (local time) or 11.30 pm (IST).
Before the Howdy Modi event in Houston, PM Modi had attended two major addresses to the Indian-American community in the US. He addressed a gathering at the Madison Square Garden in New York in 2014. Subsequently, in 2016, PM Modi attended a rally in Silicon Valley. Both the events were attended by over 20,000 people.