- Some 50,000 people are expected to attend an event at NRG Stadium, dubbed "Howdy, Modi," which will be Modi's largest gathering outside India.
- Prominent Democratic leaders, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, will also be there.
- This big event will provide an opportunity for President Trump to gain Indian-American support for the upcoming presidential election.
It’s been five years since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last stepped on American soil. At Madison Square Garden in New York City, Modi was treated like a rock star, after being barred from entering the United States for nearly a decade. On Sunday, the Indian leader will address an even bigger crowd of supporters in Houston, Texas, along with President Trump.
Many people see this move as a bid to reduce international criticism against Modi after his government’s controversial moves against Kashmir. Some 50,000 people are expected to attend the event at NRG Stadium, dubbed “Howdy, Modi,” which will be the largest gathering for Modi outside India. While this first joint program of its kind is being hailed as a victory for Modi’s touch, it also highlights the importance of growing US-India relations.
Also important to relations is a recent move by Modi to slash corporate income tax rates. Nisha Biswal, former Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs under President Obama, says, “this move to significantly reduce the corporate tax rate will provide a major boost to investor confidence, paving the way for the investments India needs as a foundation for economic growth.”
Biswal, now serving as head of the United States India Business Council, added, “The announcements will also provide a much-needed stimulus for the flagging manufacturing sector and help boost domestic consumption. We welcome this decisive action by the GOI, and look forward to a continued focus on shared prosperity as Prime Minister Modi travels Houston for the Howdy Modi summit on Sunday.”
The organizers of the event, the Texas India Forum, have also invited other elected officials, governors, and several other members of Congress. Prominent Democratic leaders, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, will also be there. India is Houston’s fourth-largest trading partner, and its growing demand for energy is likely to further boost US oil and gas sales. It is also an opportunity for India to reduce its trade deficit with the United States, which has been an important issue for President Trump. There are strong indications that the two countries can also make a declaration to reduce trade disputes over the past year and a half.
This big event will provide an opportunity for President Trump to gain Indian-American support for the upcoming presidential election. More than four million Indian-Americans live in the United States, which is one percent of the US population. It is also among the richest communities in America. According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, most of them are Democrats, and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Modi has a lot of support within the community because of his nationalist ideology, and his promise to make India great again.
Although many analysts see this as a win-win for both leaders, not everyone is excited about it. The visit comes just weeks after the Modi government abolished partial sovereignty in Kashmir, and imposed a communications blackout and other sanctions in the Muslim-majority region. The move has heightened tensions with neighboring Pakistan, as it also claims the region. Along with this, India has been subjected to severe criticism by Muslim organizations and human rights activists.
Several members of the Congress, including Indian-American Congressman Pramila Jayapal, have expressed concern over India’s move. Human and civil rights activists fear that President Trump’s shaking hands with Modi will be seen as an endorsement of his policies.