HOUSTON (Reuters) – Tens of hundreds of Indian-People packed right into a Houston stadium Sunday for a rally with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, joined by U.S. President Donald Trump, in a uncommon mass present of assist for a overseas chief on U.S. soil.
U.S. President Donald Trump and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi take part within the “Howdy Modi” occasion in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The occasion offers Modi, a nationalist going through worldwide criticism over a latest crackdown in disputed Kashmir, an opportunity to energise his relationship with Indian-People who’re lively political supporters. Trump, in the meantime, will face a largely foreign-born viewers that won’t show receptive to his typical strident anti-immigrant messages.
Jubilant supporters wearing every part from ornate saris to easy dhotis and even just a few cowboy hats waved American and Indian flags, chanted “Modi! Modi!” and munched on concession stand snacks that included Indian staples of samosas and naan breads – together with nachos.
“As we speak we have fun our neighborhood and its significance in Houston and all America,” mentioned Ketan Inamdar, who works within the administration of Houston’s Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, and painted an American flag on his proper cheek and an Indian one on the left.
“Trump may be very welcome right here at this time. This occasion is to construct concord and love,” he mentioned, standing simply in entrance of the dais the place Trump and Modi would converse. “Race, faith and political events don’t matter at this time.”
Houston is a uncommon Democratic stronghold in Republican-dominated Texas and serves because the financial anchor of a state that shall be important to Trump’s 2020 re-election bid. Polls present tepid assist by Indian-American voters, some 75% of whom voted for his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, in 2016.
However organizers of the “Howdy, Modi!” occasion that was kicked off with a 90-minute cultural program that includes 400 costumed dancers, say Trump can count on a receptive viewers.
“His presence is a sign of his assist and endorsement of the strengthening of India’s relations with America,” mentioned Preeti Dawra, a spokeswoman for the Texas India Discussion board that organized the occasion. “This occasion is about strengthening these ties.”
It won’t be the primary time Modi, who heads the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Occasion, has addressed a big crowd in the USA, which is house to about four million Indian-People together with about 300,000 in Houston and close by Dallas, in accordance with a Pew Analysis Middle evaluation of U.S. Census knowledge.
Some 19,000 individuals turned out for the same occasion in New York in 2014, and Indian-American volunteers dwelling in U.S. suburbs helped run a phone blitz of voters in India within the run-up to his Might re-election marketing campaign.
Modi’s go to to Houston comes forward of this week’s U.N. Basic Meeting in New York and amid a very tense time on the subcontinent.
The Indian chief additional strained long-simmering relations with Pakistan final month by revoking the partial autonomy loved by Muslim-majority Kashmir, which each nuclear-armed nations declare. Modi’s transfer has been met by worldwide criticism.
Pakistan has condemned the crackdown and its Prime Minister Imran Khan warned it could drive extra of the world’s Muslims into extremism.
Members of India’s non secular minority Sikh and Muslim teams are planning noisy gatherings close to the stadium to protest Modi’s Kashmir coverage.
The U.S.-India relationship on commerce and tariffs is rocky, although Trump and Modi seem to have sturdy private ties.
However Devesh Kapur, director of Asia Packages at Johns Hopkins College, who has written a e-book on Indian-People, mentioned that whereas the rally has symbolic worth for each leaders, “it’s unlikely by itself to influence thorny commerce points … however it could possibly’t damage.”
Kapur additionally forecast little enchancment concerning Trump’s standing with Indian-People.
“The Trump administration’s hard-line insurance policies on immigration … have hardly endeared (him) to the neighborhood,” Kapur mentioned. “Showing with PM Modi may mildly assist however definitely not reverse the neighborhood’s general pro-Democrat leanings.”
Reporting by Brad Brooks in Houston; Further reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in Mumbai; Modifying by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker