Stating that India and the US have taken their bilateral relationship to great heights during the Trump presidency, Modi said he was introducing Trump to his family—a stadium packed with 50,000 people mainly of Indian origin.
“This morning, we have a very special person with us, he needs no introduction, his name is familiar to every person on the planet," Modi said, adding that Trump had left a “deep and lasting impact everywhere".
“Today, he is here with us. It is my honour and privilege to welcome in this magnificent stadium and magnificent gathering," Modi said, adding that Trump was all friendliness, warmth and energy every time he had met the US president.
In his comments, Trump said that border security was vital to India and its people just as it was to the US. The two leaders standing together and walking arm in arm is seen as a message to Pakistan as well as China.
Watch: Howdy Modi: Cheers, chants greet PM as he arrives for mega Houston event
“My sense is, it is not just Pakistan, I think the whole world will be watching the Houston event and take lessons about what Indian Americans have achieved, what India and the US, the state of the relationship today, so I think there are multiple messages there and obviously it is for the Pakistanis to read what they wish to into it and I would say the same applies to other people in the world as well," external affairs minister S. Jaishankar said last week.
Watch: PM Modi-Donald Trump bonhomie steals the show at Howdy Modi event
Earlier, welcoming Modi, Steny Hoyer, Democratic US Representative of Congress from Maryland, said the “two democracies are committed to the same vision of the future based on common hopes and shared dreams of our people". The 3.5 million-strong Indian American community, he said, was making an extraordinary contribution to the US and was the glue holding the India-US partnership together. “Mr Prime Minister, they are making a difference in America," he said just after Modi’s arrival at the NRG Stadium, which hosts the Super Bowl, an annual championship game of the US National Football League. The “Howdy Modi!" event was organized by the Texas India Forum (TIF), and video clips posted on Twitter over the past few days showed volunteers working round the clock to make the programme a major success.
The three-hour event included an Indian cultural programme, apart from the address by Modi. He was also joined by an array of US lawmakers, in a rare gesture seen as a tribute to the Indian-American and Indian communities.
“Will be in Houston to be with my friend. Will be a great day in Texas!," Trump tweeted earlier in the day.
"Looking forward to being with our great India loving community!" he said in another Twitter post.
This was Modi’s third event with the Indian diaspora in the US—the previous ones were in 2014 and 2015 at New York’s Madison Square Garden and the SAP Center at San Jose, California, respectively. The previous two events had seen some 20,000 people attending them.
This was Modi’s third engagement in Houston after his arrival on Saturday in this southern US city, which hosts a significant number of the Indian American Community. The visit began with India and the US cementing their energy ties, with India’s state-run Petronet LNG Ltd signing a pact to negotiate the sourcing of around 5 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) liquefied natural gas (LNG) from US developer Tellurian Inc.’s Driftwood project in Louisiana. Bilateral trade has crossed $140 billion.
“This is the laying of a new relationship with the US, with newer energy ties and lower trade deficits – a different economic partnership," said Harsh Pant, an analyst with New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.
He, however, noted that trade was only a part of the India-US relationship with ties now broad-based and covering a vast spectrum of issues.
Ties between the two countries have steadily warmed in the past two decades, with four US presidential visits to India since the year 2000. There is considerable convergence of views on issues like terrorism. It was with US help that the UN Security Council in May included Pakistan-based Maulana Masood Azhar in a list of banned terrorists. The US under president Trump has exerted considerable pressure on Pakistan to cut support to terrorism. Irritants on issues of trade remain, but Indian foreign ministry Jaishankar described ties as “a glass which is 90% full rather than a glass which is 10% empty."
The speeches by Modi and Trump were preceded by a cultural event titled ‘Woven: The Indian-American Story’, which showcased the contributions the Indian-Americans have made in the US. The cultural show had nearly 400 performers and community members from Texas and across the US, with some 27 groups performing at the event, an Indian official at the event said.
The US president joining Modi on stage in Houston “is a very clear indication of where the Trump Administration stands when it comes to Pakistan," Shalabh Kumar from the Republican Hindu Coalition said, PTI reported earlier in the day.
Trump is to meet Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan in New York this week. According to Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the main agenda of Khan’s visit to the US is to highlight India’s alleged atrocities in Kashmir. Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high since India on 5-6 August abrogated a Constitutional provision granting limited autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, and split the state into two federally administered territories. New Delhi also imposed restrictions on communications and deployed thousands of additional troops in a bid to ensure Pakistan does not infiltrate terrorists into the region and cause a law and order problem.
Both Modi and Khan address the UN General Assembly on 27 September.
After the “Howdy Modi" event, the prime minister is to meet members of the US Congress who were present at the event before departing for New York on the second leg of his visit.