New Delhi: Overnight Monday, the White House confirmed that US president Donald Trump will be joining prime minister Narendra Modi at an event organised by the Indian American community in Houston, Texas, on Sunday.
Christened “Howdy Modi" the event has already garnered 50,000 registrations online with many more on a waiting list.
According to the White House, 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."
Here’s a look at the key implications of the Trump drop in at the Modi event.
1) This would mark probably the first time ever that a sitting US president has attended an event organised by the Indian community in the US. The summit, with the theme of "Shared Dreams, Bright Futures" will highlight the contributions of Indian-Americans in enriching the US for the last seven decades as well as the key role they have played in strengthening relations between the two nations. It shows the rising profile of India and the Indian community in the US. According to a survey by Pew Research some years ago, the Indian community in the US is seen as comparatively more educated, qualified and holding better jobs than other ethnic groups. Many second generation Indian Americans are now actively involved in US politics — lawmakers Ami Bera and Raja Krishnamurthy being just two examples.
2) The Houston meet will be the two leaders' third meeting this year; Modi and Trump last met at the G7 Summit in France and prior to that on the sidelines of the G20 meet in Osaka. The engagements show the remarkable transformation of the India US relationship in a matter of 20 years. While strategic ties were seen as close, economic ties which were seen to be something of an irritant due to Trump’s focus on the trade deficit with India, could see a transformation with the two sides possibly announcing a trade deal during Modi’s visit. India is now looking to invest in the US energy sector — something that is expected to be welcomed by Trump. Moreover, Trump attending the Texas 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, which has gone on for over 40 days now. It will also serve to 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.
3) The Houston meet also represents an opportunity for Trump to garner support from the indian American community ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. Indian Americans and the Indian community 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. Some 84 % of Indian-Americans voted in 2016 for Trump's rival Hillary Clinton, making them among the most Democratic-leaning ethnic groups, according to polling by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, AFP reported. 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.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump took part in a rally in New Jersey where he had famously declared: "I love Hindu."