Reuters New Delhi/Mumbai
With US President Donald Trump by his side, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek to fire up thousands of Indian-American supporters at a rally in Texas on Sunday, shrugging off international criticism over a crackdown in Kashmir.
Modi is travelling to the US to speak at the UN General Assembly, seven weeks after his government revoked the partial autonomy enjoyed by Kashmir.
Before travelling to the United Nations headquarters in New York, Modi will address a rally at a stadium in Houston that Trump has also agreed to attend.
“The special gesture of President @realDonaldTrump to join us in Houston highlights the strength of the relationship and recognition of the contribution of the Indian community to American society and economy,” Modi said in a tweet.
Though there have been recent tensions between Washington and New Delhi over trade and tariffs, the two men have shown a warm personal rapport at previous meetings.
About 50,000 people have registered for the “Howdy, Modi” community event, at which Trump will also speak, the biggest crowd that Modi has drawn after a rock-show like rally at New York’s Madison Square Garden in 2014.
That was the first big attempt by Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to rouse the prosperous diaspora in the US — home to 4mn Indian-Americans — and lobby for India’s interests. Vijay Chauthaiwale, the chief of the BJP’s foreign affairs department, said from Houston that Trump’s decision to attend the event was a surprise, but testified to the power of the US Indian community as well as the importance Trump attached to bilateral ties, despite recent trade frictions.
“The strategic relationship is stronger,” he said.
Modi’s move to end the special constitutional status of Kashmir, where hundreds of people have been detained, mobile and internet services suspended and public gatherings curbed, has drawn expressions of concern from foreign governments, including the US state department, which called for restraint.
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