Speed Reads

Howdy Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump swap praise at unusual Houston rally

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to a crowd of about 50,000 people in Houston's NRG Stadium on Sunday, and President Trump was his special guest. The "Howdy, Modi!" event, attended mostly by members of Houston's large Indian-American community, was reportedly one of the largest U.S. gatherings to celebrate a foreign leader who isn't a pope, and one of the biggest meetings of the Indian diaspora in history. Trump and Modi both lavished praise on each other, and each had something to gain from the event.

For Trump, "it was a chance to court Indian-Americans for the 2020 presidential election race, where Texas could emerge as a battleground state," and to increase his share of the Indian-American vote nationwide, says BBC News correspondent Brajesh Upadhyay, while for Modi, "a PR triumph and picture with the president of the United States may help him shrug off the criticism over his recent strong-arm polices at home," especially in the Kashmir region. Modi, in fact, "may face a frostier reception at the U.N. General Assembly" this week in New York, BBC News notes.

In Texas, though, "the foreign strategy of soothing tensions with the United States by stroking President Trump's ego was put into vivid effect here," says The Washington Post. Trump and Modi did not dwell on the trade tensions that started this summer, but both leaders are hoping to reach a partial deal they can each call a win. In his brief, scripted remarks, Trump praised Modi and Indian-Americans and compared the Kashmir region to the U.S.-Mexico border. Modi used both his and Trump's campaign slogans to laud Trump, adding that the U.S. president is "warm, friendly, accessible, energetic, and full of wit."