This weekend, the Indian prime minister will deliver his biggest-ever blockbuster show in the US.
On Sept. 22, Narendra Modi will address an estimated over 50,000 Indian-Americans at a massive event at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. The event, named “Howdy Modi!”, will be attended by American president Donald Trump as a “special gesture” to underscore the bond between the two countries.
This is at least the third such mega event that Modi has held in the US since he first became India’s prime minister. In September 2014, Modi had addressed a gathering of over 19,000 people at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and the next year, he had recreated the spectacle in San Jose.
This time around, Modi’s itinerary includes an address to the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session, and a meeting with energy companies, among other things:
This would be the third recent meeting between Modi and Trump, after the G-20 summit in Japan in June, and the G-7 summit in France last month. There are high expectations that Trump would make some big announcements at the Houston rally. “Could be. I have a very good relationship with prime minister Modi,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday.
Strengthening trade ties
Earlier this week, Indian commerce minister Piyush Goyal said that India and the US are likely to announce several trade agreements during Modi’s week-long trip. ”We are finalising the agreement. Whether president Trump and prime minister Modi announce it during their meeting is up to them,” he said.
India’s foreign minister S Jaishankar has also hinted at the same. He described India’s ties with the US as “a glass which is 90% full rather than a glass which is 10% empty,” referring to “the business deals which are taking place.”
India-US bilateral relationship has been going through a tough time lately owing to a host of trade and economic issues. The US in June terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme, after which India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products including almonds and apples from June 5.
The sold-out event at Houston has drawn the attention of protestors from India’s minority communities in the US. On Sept. 14, these protesters held a “dress-rehearsal” rally that started from the Sikh National Center in northwestern Houston to the NRG Center.
There has also been strong criticism against Modi receiving the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation award.
The protests and criticism are mainly driven by the Indian government’s recent policies in the northern Indian state of Kashmir, and Modi’s violent past record.
Following the criticism, Hollywood actors Riz Ahmed and Jameela Jamil pulled out of the Gates Foundation event. It’s been widely speculated that New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern may also choose not to attend the event.
Meanwhile, it looks like the weather gods aren’t being too friendly to Modi either. As per the latest weather update, a tropical storm caused devastating floods and power outages in Houston and surrounding areas today (Sept. 20). Rescue operations in the region are on, and people have been advised to stay indoors.