Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi plays the “Great Game” of global diplomacy with US President Donald Trump, who, in fact, is playing with an even straighter bat and a clear message – Indo-US relations are set to define the new geo-political dynamics and India can look to America as its biggest supporter.
Although it was buzzing strongly among the strong Indian-American community. But the announcement by the White House on Sunday that US President Trump will join PM Modi at Houston’s mega “Howdy, Modi!” event on September 22 is being seen as a “big diplomatic coup” by Indian PM.
India watchers in the big think tanks in Washington DC call it “unprecedented and historic” in Indo-US relations, which is currently on a high due to Trump-Modi personal chemistry and admiration.
President Trump will not only be in Houston just to share the dais with PM Modi but will be giving a speech, which is first ever by an American President in any Indian PM’s event in the US. Former US President Barack Obama was also approached to join PM Modi in his first term at Maddison Garden in New York and in Silicon Valley, but he didn’t oblige.
Top South Asia experts say PM Modi’s “signature hug diplomacy” with Trump has broken all diplomatic barriers and is a slap on the face of Pakistan and a strong message to China. Both Pakistan and China have been trying to malign India’s global image in the name of human rights violations over Kashmir, but President Trump has sent a clear message, says Mukesh Aghi, President and CEO of US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), “the US is with India on Kashmir, Article 370 and its war against cross-border terrorism, in a way giving a big jolt to Pakistan establishment under Prime Minister Imran Khan.”
Richard M Rossow, Senior adviser at the DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) sees the upcoming meeting of two leaders at a public platform on the US soil as a “big message.”
Rossow says: “This visit to Houston signals that, despite tensions in many areas of US-India relations, President Trump still respects Prime Minister Modi and wants to make an effort to engage and see our way through the impasse. I doubt China will be terribly surprised, nor would Beijing presume this visit has any particular immediate bearing on US-China ties. But I’m certain Pakistan will feel somewhat burned, as Islamabad perhaps felt a bit of positive momentum in its engagement with Washington in recent months.”
Added Aghi, “the Modi-Trump meeting is a win-win situation for the current Indo-US relations…while for the US it will ensure easing of trade frictions from the Indian side, for India, the US has assured its full support on the issue of Kashmir. Pakistan has been left in the cold.” Interestingly Trump will be appearing in Republican den as Houston is a strong Republican state, but with a captive audience of 50,000-strong Indian American community, his popularity will surge further, says Aghi adding, “the partnership is critical to the development of strong strategic and business relations between the two largest democracies in the world and for peace in the region.”
Michael Kugelman, at the Asia Program in Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC sees President Trump’s participation in Houston as a big “disappointment for Pakistan.” Kugelman says: “Trump’s participation in the event will telegraph a powerful message of reassurance about the bilateral relationship. In effect, for all the concerns about trade tensions and Washington’s concerns about conditions in Kashmir, the US-India relationship is in a very good place. With Trump sharing a stage with Modi, the relationship will receive a jolt of energy and some lasting momentum.”
He added: “For Islamabad, which hoped that Imran Khan’s successful visit to Washington might compel the US to think about drawing closer to Pakistan, Trump’s participation in the `HowdyModi’ extravaganza will be a disappointment.”
More than 50,000 Indian Americans from across the United States have registered for the September 22 mage “Howdy, Modi!” event to be held at the sprawling NRG Stadium in Houston. Howdy”, short for ‘How do you do?’, is a friendly greeting commonly used in the southwestern United States. This would also be the first time that an American President would be addressing thousands of Indian Americans at one place in the US.
Top diplomatic sources say the request in this regard was made by Prime Minister Modi to President Trump when the two met in France last month on the sidelines of the G-7 summit. While India is not part of G-7 countries, Modi was invited as a special guest by French President Emanuel Macron for the summit.
Trump, who enjoys great chemistry and friendship with Modi, “immediately accepted” the invitation to join him in Houston and directed his officials and secret service in this regard, sources say. A formal Secret Service clearance came Thursday.
This would be the third meeting between the two leaders this year, the previous two being in Japan in June on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit and the other one in August in France.
Trump, then as Republican presidential nominee, had addressed a strong crowd of some 5,000 Indian Americans in New Jersey in October 2016, a few weeks away from his historic win in the November 2016 elections.
So far, Trump is the only presidential candidate to address Indian Americans solely during an election year. In his address, Trump had said that if elected he would be the best friend of India and India and Americans in the White House.