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New Delhi: US president Donald Trump’s participation in the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ public event in Houston with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has sparked questions over whether India has become part of the US election metric.

On Sunday, Modi introduced Trump as “my friend" under whose watch India-US relations have soared. Trump, in his speech, reciprocated in kind, addressing Modi as “my friend" as he spoke of how Indian-Americans had contributed to the community in the US and how his administration was working for all Americans including those of Indian origin.

“Who could resist an audience of more than 50,000 Indian-Americans packed into a Texas football stadium? Not Donald Trump, on the eve of an election year, so he joined the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ party here to proclaim, with the Indian prime minister, a great future of shared values and mutual reinforcement for the world’s two largest democracies," said Roger Cohen, The New York Times columnist in a piece published online on Monday. US Presidential elections are slated for November next year.

That Trump was standing next to Modi when the prime minister spoke of abrogating Article 370 of the Indian constitution that bestowed special status on Jammu and Kashmir, signalled the US President’s approval of the Modi government’s move, Cohen noted.

US Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders slammed India for the “lockdown" in Kashmir. “When President Trump meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston, we will hear much about the friendship between the American and Indian peoples," the 77-year-old veteran of US politics said in the Houston Chronicle.

“However, there will be a deafening silence when it comes to a human rights crisis unfolding right before our eyes—and that is unacceptable."

Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma tweeted, “Our relationship with the United States of America have throughout been bipartisan, vis-à-vis Republicans and Democrats. Your actively campaigning for Trump is a breach of both India and America as sovereign nations and democracies."

Other analysts said Modi’s walkabout hand-in-hand with Trump at the end of the event cannot be taken as rooting for a particular side in the US elections. Given both Democrat and Republican lawmakers were present to receive Modi when he came on stage, “it shows that India has bipartisan support in the US Congress," said former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal.

“I think president Trump accepted the invite to the event given there has been commentary about him being anti-immigrant. This may have been one way for him to prove that he is against illegal immigration in a border state like Texas." “It was a good way to show that past problems with Trump (on trade and other issues) are a thing of the past and the two leaders are friends," he said adding that this message was to the audience in India, as well as Pakistan and China.

PTI contributed to this story.

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