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Trump attending Howdy Modi event proof of PM’s growing stature – and of Indians in US

The affluent Indian-Americans, majority of whom are Democrats, have been of late responding to the Republicans’ call to join the Right.

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The announcement that US President Donald Trump is going to participate in the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event to be hosted by the Texas India Forum in Houston on 22 September must have been a shocker to many. Even I had a sense of disbelief when I heard it, although it’s not the first time that the head of a government would be attending and addressing an Indian diaspora event to honour Prime Minister Modi. Leaders of Canada, United Kingdom, Kenya, Israel and Sweden have all done it in the last five years. Still, the attendance of US President makes it a very special occasion for India, the US, the Indian diaspora everywhere, and for the global geo-politics.

Growing India-US ties

India-US relations have grown at a strategic level under the leadership of PM Modi. The strength of this relationship is that it withstood change of governance – from the Democrats to the Republicans. Just four days before the 2016 US Presidential election results, I wrote a column arguing that India is quite capable to deal with the US irrespective of the outcome of that election. There were several reasons for this cautious optimism, and most of them are still valid today.

The most crucial is India’s growing geo-strategic importance. India’s growing economy, market, and its influential global diaspora are some of the other reasons. India-US partnership is now spread across sectors, including space, defence, and agriculture. About 100 Indian companies have invested more than $10 billion in the US and created thousands of jobs there. Close to 200,000 Indian students add $7 billion to the US economy. Bilateral trade between the two countries is expected to reach $238 billion by 2025. No one can afford to ignore these facts.


Also read: In ‘last-minute’ decision, Trump to now share stage with Modi in Houston gala


The valued Indian diaspora

For the US’ domestic politics, it’s a complicated scenario as far as the Indian diaspora is concerned. Although there are no statistical data available, it can be safely presumed that the majority of India-Americans are Democrats, even though the balance is slowly shifting towards the Republicans. All current Indian-origin members of the US Congress are Democrats. Data also shows that Indian-Americans financially support Democrat candidates than those from the Republican Party. Republicans of late have been making concerted efforts to pull Indian-Americans towards the Right, and the affluent Indian diaspora is slowly but surely responding to this call. Donald Trump himself, during his previous election campaign, had made concerted efforts in that direction.

In short, for the first time, both the major political parties in the US are keen to attract the Indian-Americans to their side, a situation best suited for the diaspora and for India as well. It is also important to note that the India Caucus in the US Congress (both in House and Senate) has more than 100 members, with equal distribution between blue and red, indicating bipartisan support to India in the US’ legislative branch.


Also read: Modi and Trump likely to unveil ‘limited’ India-US trade package this month


Sorting out issues

There are, of course, some disagreements between the two countries. Trade issues dominate this list, while other issues include India’s purchase of sophisticated weapons from Russia and peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban in Afghanistan (which Trump recently cancelled). But there is a strong willingness on both sides to discuss these issues, which shows that India-US friendship is attaining a new level of maturity and understanding.

President Trump’s presence in Houston rally is certainly going to strengthen the India-US friendship. It is likely to give a clear message to the world that India and the US stand together in their strategic partnership, in spite of differences on certain issues.

At the same time, it does not mean that India is taking a partisan approach in the US’ domestic politics. Donald Trump has been invited as the President of the United States by the organisers of ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event. It is noteworthy that the organisers have also invited several Members of the US Congress from both sides of the isle, and governors of various states. Many of them have confirmed their presence.


Also read: At Howdy, Modi! event in US, PM to draw ‘largest-ever’ crowd after Pope


PM Modi’s rising stature

During the previous US regime, PM Modi and Barack Obama had developed a personal chemistry. Everyone predicted, and correctly so, that Modi-Trump relationship would be more transactional. But on certain occasions, Trump has gone a step ahead of Obama. He upgraded India’s status on defence ties from “major defence partner” to “strategic trader authorisation-1” category. The Trump administration has also renamed Asia-Pacific as “Indo-Pacific”.

President Trump’s presence at the Houston event is certainly going to enhance India’s stature globally and PM Modi’s position as a global leader. Since the massive victory in the Lok Sabha election in May 2019, Modi and Trump have met twice (in addition to two phone calls). Even after taking into account the unpredictability on the other side, it is safe to assume that between India and the US, there is increasing convergence of views on several issues, and willingness to discuss and resolve contentious issues. Not long after the 2014 election victory, PM Modi realised the potential of Indian diaspora as an important arm of India’s soft power. The Houston event, with President Trump in attendance, will further strengthen this conviction.

The author is in-charge of the BJP’s foreign affairs department. Views are personal.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. BRAVO ஸ்ரீ MODIJI ஃ
    MODI IS A VICTORIOUS MANTRA INDEED !
    AS THE MOST POWERFUL LEADERS MODI AND TRUMP WILL LEAD THE WORLD TO HIGHER CONCIOUSENESS !
    LET US SUPPORT ALL POSITIVE CHANGES THEY IMPLIMENT FOR THE WELFARE OF THE HUMANITY …
    IN THE FORTHCOMMING NEW ODER OF THE WORLD INDIA AND HER REFINED WAYS OF LIVING IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE VERY NATURE SANADHANA DHARMA IS HAILED AS WELL AS PRACTISED WILLINGLY BY MANY…
    SIVAGNANAM THE WISDOM OF PURE LOVE IS TO BLOSSOM !18.09.2019

  2. Irrelevant points in the article. Crux of the matter is upcoming Presidentship elections in USA next year where Indian diaspora is a captive vote bank for Trump through Modi.

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