Diaspora diplomacy in US: ‘Howdy Modi’ sets a precedent, boosts India’s global image
Narendra Modi’s popularity knows no bounds. Ever since his election as Prime Minister in 2014, the level of adulation and admiration has only grown, not just within vast stretches of the nation but well beyond the seas i.e. Indian diaspora living in United States, Europe & even the Gulf nations.
Indian diaspora sees Narendra Modi as a ‘rockstar’ Prime Minister whose mere presence is enough to energise and galvanise the crowd. And, this was clearly evident at the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston (United States). Loud cheering and chants by the Indian community at the sprawling stadium in US showed Modi’s strong connect with the masses. And, this is not the first instance. Earler in 2014 and 2016 too, Modi wowed the Indian diaspora in US from Madison Square and Silicon valley.
In fact, PM Modi has been making a conscious effort to connect to the Indian diaspora. Reaching out to them, seeking their role in nation-building has been on Modi’s list of priorities during foreign visits.
Modi’s blockbuster event in US
On September 22 (Sunday), Modi’s outreach to Indian Americans yielded rich dividends.
With more than 50,000 Indian Americans in crowd and 2 dozen American lawmakers in attendance, ‘Howdy Modi’ turned out to PM Modi’s big blockbuster event in Houston, United States. In fact, it came as a watershed moment in India-America ties, as never before in history, an American President stood by Indian Prime Minister’s side while the latter addressed the Indian diaspora.
It was no less than a grand spectacle, beaming across the world through Television. It also came across a landmark moment for India’s diaspora diplomacy. PM Modi became the first leader to wow the Indian diaspora in United States, with US President by his side at the mega event. From the stage, PM Modi not only talked about growing ties between the two nations but also lambasted Pakistan.
‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston came as win-win situation for both PM Modi and Donald Trump. Modi got feted and cheered in US, a sight loved by all Indians while Trump got a shot in the arm in the run-up to US Presidential election.
Indian diaspora, no longer ignored lot in US
Indian Americans today occupy positions of power in academia, business, US government and politics. They have acquired clout and are a force to reckon with. With population of three million, they comprise one of the most influential section of immigrants in US. Their role in shaping up the diplomatic ties between two nations can’t be ruled out.
Leave aside US, Indian diaspora’s unbreakable bond with the motherland was something not openly talked about unless Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP govt launched Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in 2002.
BJP govts have always been more inclined towards mobilising the Indian diaspora for being part of India’s growth story. Harnessing the power of diaspora for India’s exponential growth has been on top priority of Modi govt. PM Modi understands the importance of Indian diaspora, especially in US. He understands that diaspora can drastically enhance and amplify the nation’s economic growth and also elevate India’s standing in the world.
PM Modi has been trying to leverage the Indian diaspora as a diplomatic asset. Wooing of the Indian diaspora has earned him criticism back home but that didn’t dissociate him from engaging with Indian community abroad.
At Houston rally, the bonhomie and camaraderie between two strongest leaders of the world opened many possibilities for two nations. Their ‘victory march’ across the stadium was a grand spectacle for the world to see. Their similar stand on global terrorism was yet another sign of strengthening India-America ties.
Trump, who remained extra-charitable in praise of PM Modi, categorically spoke about the scourge of Islamic terror and underlined the need to quell it. PM Modi also slammed Pakistan without naming it, in front of US President, saying that 9/11 attacks in US and 26/11 Mumbai attacks emanated from the same source.
One may see it as Modi’s diplomatic coup or US policy shift, but today, India and US relations are on a completely different footing. India is no longer a ‘minnow’, it’s rather the lead partner. Houston rally was unarguably a ‘Narendra Modi show’ – there are no two thoughts about it.