White House confirms President Trump will attend historic ‘Howdy, Modi’ rally in Houston on Sept 22

The White House has confirmed that President Donald Trump will join Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a massive gathering of Indian Americans in Houston on Sept 22, in a symbolic show of the bond between the two leaders and countries.

The September 22 rally -- dubbed, with a touch of Texan twang, “Howdy, Modi!” -- will mark a rare joint appearance between a US president and a foreign leader before an ethnic community, and be the pair's third meeting this year.

The gathering is “a great opportunity to emphasize the strong ties between the people of the United States and India, to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the world's oldest and largest democracies and to discuss ways to deepen their energy and trade relationship,” the White House said in a media statement on Sept 15.

Organizers say that more than 50,000 people have registered for the event, which will take place inside the NRG Stadium of the Houston Texans football team. The "Howdy, Modi" event will have a simultaneous English translation available for everyone to listen to at the stadium via their smartphone. Doors for the event will open at 7:30 a.m. and the program will begin at 10:00 a.m. local time.

Over 60 lawmakers, including Congressmen, Senate representatives and governors of various states, will attend the event, the organizers said.

The White House said President Trump would travel the same day to Ohio to showcase an Australian-owned factory alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who will be on a state visit.

The two joint appearances amount to a day-long attempt to nurture relationships with foreign leaders by Trump.

The rally with Modi indicates that the two countries have turned the page on an incident in July when Trump baffled India by saying, in a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, that Modi had sought mediation on Kashmir, a flashpoint for conflict between the nuclear-armed powers.

Trump and Modi have frequently drawn comparisons to each other, with the two leaders elected on vows to promote the identity of the majority community.

But organizers hope to keep the September 22 rally non-partisan, with a cultural performance planned and invited speakers including Steny Hoyer, the number-two Democrat in the House of Representatives.

The joint event shows "the personal chemistry and friendship" between Trump and Modi, said Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the Indian ambassador to the United States.

"These are two leaders who are used to thinking outside of the box," he said, describing the joint appearance as "unconventional and unique."

"The event will also reflect the strong bipartisan support there has been for US-India relations," he said, describing Indian Americans as an "organic bridge" between the world's two largest democracies.

Shringla said that Modi would also meet in Houston with energy companies before heading to New York for the UN General Assembly.

The Houston event will be Modi's third major address to the Indian-American community after he became the prime minister in 2014 and the first after his re-election in May.

The previous two were at the Madison Square Garden in New York in 2014 and the Silicon Valley in 2016. Both the events were attended by more than 20,000 people.

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