New Delhi: ‘Howdy, Modi!’ — the event to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston on 22 September is likely to see the largest-ever audience in the US for any foreign leader other than the Pope.
Over 50,000 people have already registered for the event to be held at the sprawling NRG stadium and 8,000 are on the waiting list, organisers said.
‘Howdy’ is a colloquial expression of ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’ — widely used in America.
Modi will be visiting the US from 21-27 September for the annual United Nations General Assembly session — his first US trip after winning a second term as prime minister in an emphatic victory in May.
In his first term, Modi had visited the US in 2014 and addressed a gathering of 20,000 people at the famous Madison Square in New York. A year later, he had attended a Silicon Valley event in California, which also saw a crowd of 20,000.
“This will be the largest gathering for an invited foreign leader visiting the United States other than the Pope,” said Jugal Malini, a member of the Texas India Forum (TIF), which is the main organiser of the event.
Besides TIF, over 650 organisations, including Akshaya Patra Foundation, IIT alumni association, Patanjali Yogpeeth, Patidar Foundation, are working hard to make the event a success.
‘Modi to speak for 65-70 minutes’
The event is divided into two sections, Malini told ThePrint. The first part, titled ‘Woven: The Indian-American Story’, is of 90-minute duration.
“This will showcase the contribution of Indian-Americans to the cultural, intellectual and social landscape of the US. Indian-American musicians will also perform,” Malini said, adding documentaries on Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior will be shown.
Malini said PM Modi would address the crowd in the second part of the event, adding that his speech will be of 65-70 minute duration.
Vijay Chauthaiwale, head of BJP’s foreign affairs cell, told ThePrint that the tagline of the event is ‘Shared Dreams, Bright Future’.
“This reflects the intent to build on the common aspiration that brings together the great democracies of the United States of America and India. The PM’s address will be based on this theme,” said Chauthaiwale, who left for the US Thursday to oversee the preparation for the event.
Importance of Houston
From trade and business perspective, India’s bond with Houston is noteworthy.
India is Houston Houston-Galveston Customs District’s fourth largest trading partner — just behind Brazil, China and Mexico. Besides, Houston-India trade is up 82.2 per cent this year. Houston customs district’s exports to India are up 106.5 per cent and Indian exports to Houston stand at 48.8 per cent.
Additionally, the Houston-Galveston Customs District is the third busiest gateway for US-India trade by sea and air.
From 2009 to 2018, trade between Houston and India averaged $4.8 billion annually and was valued at $7.2 billion in 2018.
Nearly 93,000 people living in Houston were born in India. As many as 33 Houston-based firms have 85 branches and subsidiaries across India, including KBR, National Oilwell Varco, NetIQ, Oceaneering International and Walter P Moore.
On the other hand, 28 Indian firms have as many branches and subsidiaries in Houston, including HCL America, JSW Steel, Mahindra USA, Neilsoft and Welspun Global Trade.
Trade and cultural relationships with India are facilitated in Houston through the Consulate General of India and the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce.