NEW DELHI :
In a big diplomatic coup for India, the White House on Monday confirmed that US President Donald Trump will be joining Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an event organized by the Indian community in Houston, Texas, next week.
Christened, ‘Howdy Modi’, the event has already garnered 50,000 registrations online, with many more on the waiting list.
The White House said the event will be a “great opportunity to emphasize 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".
Analysts in India said it would be a major boost for Modi, and the Indian community in the US.
The Houston meet will be the third meeting between Modi and Trump this year. The two leaders last met at the G7 summit in France in August and on the sidelines of the G20 meet in Osaka in June. The engagements show the remarkable transformation of the India-US relationship in the past two decades.
“What is to be noted is the optics of this. The US President is making an effort to come all the way from Washington to Texas to attend an Indian community event with the Indian Prime Minister," said former foreign secretary and former Indian ambassador to the US, Lalit Mansingh. “It shows understanding and proximity between the two leaders. It helps dispel the belief that Trump suddenly became close to Pakistan offering to mediate."
Trump on 22 July had made an astonishing claim that Modi had asked him to mediate on the Kashmir dispute. “It will reinforce the idea that ties between the two countries are good and problem areas will be ironed out," he added.
Moreover, Trump’s presence at the Texas event is expected to be seen as a strong personal support for Modi at a time when several US lawmakers have expressed concerns over the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir. It will also send a strong signal to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is expected to highlight, what he terms as, human rights abuses in Kashmir at the UN General Assembly session in New York on 17-30 September.
Mansingh said that the event would probably be the first of its kind, wherein a sitting American president will attend an event organized by the Indian community in the US. “It shows the rising profile of India and the Indian community in the US."
Economic ties between India and the US have been a challenge due to Trump’s focus on trade deficit with India. But that could see a major change with the two sides possibly announcing a trade deal during Modi’s visit.