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Trump pushes unity with India at "Howdy, Modi!" event in Houston

Trump hosts Indian PM at "Howdy Modi!" rally

Deafening drums marked the entrance of President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a packed Texas stadium Sunday. Instead of dwelling on differences, Mr. Trump highlighted the growth of U.S. exports to India, the billions of dollars spent by India on U.S.-made defense equipment and joint military exercises with New Delhi.

"India has never invested in the United States like it is doing today," Mr. Trump said, adding that "we're doing the same thing in India."

About 50,000 Indian Americans attended the "Howdy Modi!" rally in Houston, where the crowd chanted "Modi! Modi! Modi!" as he took the stage to introduce Mr. Trump as "my friend, a friend of India, a great American president."

Modi even used Trump's political slogan to say the president had a strong resolve to "make America great again."

"When I met him for the first time, he said to me 'India has a true friend in the White House,'" Modi said. "Mr. President, this morning in Houston, you can hear the heartbeat of this great partnership in this celebration of the world's two largest democracies."

Donald Trump | Narendra Modi
President Trump participates in the "Howdy Modi" event with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston on September 22, 2019. Reuters

Mr. Trump said Modi invited him to the rally — one of the largest U.S. gatherings of the Indian diaspora in history — when they met last month in France. He seemed to explain his decision to attend by saying "I love India."Earlier this year, Modi won the biggest reelection India has seen in years and his support for Mr. Trump could help the president at the polls next year. The two are to meet Tuesday on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly.

Mr. Trump is also scheduled to meet this week with Pakistani leader Imran Khan, who recently solicited the president's help mediating the Pakistan-India conflict over Kashmir. India's government has stripped the disputed Himalayan region of its semi-autonomy and launched a security crackdown last month.

Mr. Trump said U.S.-India bonds are expanding despite tensions over India's trade surplus with the U.S. In June, the U.S. canceled special trade privileges that had allowed India to export certain goods with lower tariffs. India responded by slapping tariffs on more than two dozen U.S. goods.

The U.S. and India are discussing ways to negotiate at least a partial trade deal, which could include Washington reinstating India's special tariff status in exchange for concessions related to access to Indian markets, possibly in dairy and medical devices. Other issues are thwarting efforts to sign a larger trade deal.

In an address in Hindi to "my family," Modi briefly mentioned the trade talks and expressed hope that an announcement can be made while he and Mr. Trump participate in the U.N. gathering.

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