Critics called U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to join Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a bipartisan gaggle of American lawmakers at an event in Houston on September 22 expected to be attended by over 50,000 people another example of the president's affection for authoritarian leaders.
"I don't know what's more embarasssing—that Modi will appear beside Trump or that Trump will appear beside Modi," tweeted Rutgers professor Audrey Truschke. "Both countries have my condolences."
The "Howdy, Modi!" event is planned on being held at the NRG Stadium in Houston and is sponsored by the Texas Indian Forum. Supporters of Modi from around the country are expected to attend the event, which will also feature Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Democratic Reps. Sheila Jackson-Lee and Al Green, and others.
The prime minister's appeal goes beyond just those attending the event. A report from The Intercept Monday revealed that former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for the party's nomination for president in 2020, hired a vocal Modi supporter as the campaign's director of outreach to the Asian-American Pacific Islander community.
"As an Indian-American, who's seeing the humanitarian crisis imposed on Kashmir by the Modi government—it is truly troubling to see Biden elevating someone who is in support of this now bordering on fascist regime in a leadership position," the Coucil for American Islamic relations Arizona's executive director Imrann Siddiqi told The Intercept.
Sixty U.S. lawmakers in total are expected to attend the Houston event.
Modi's government has been accused of multiple human rights violations for its treatment of minorities and its recent crackdown on the independent territory of Kashmir. As Common Dreams reported, Modi's government is constructing camps to hold so-called "illegal immigrants" in the northeastern state of Assam, a practice the government may spread to more of the country. That record, said the prime minister's critics, should give lawmakers planning to attend pause.
"When they cheer Modi, they cheer fascism," said human rights lawyer Arjun Sethi. "When they stand by his side, they whitewash his atrocities in Kashmir and Assam. These officials should be shamed and called out."
The Houston event is more than just a party for Modi. The Indian government is transitioning away from coal, and Houston's energy sector is eager to sell the prime minister on Texas oil, as Charlie Riedl, the executive director of the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, explained to Bloomberg.
"Based on the broader aspiration to move people out of energy poverty and to enhance manufacturing," Riedl said, "this all points to emerging opportunities."
Trump's appearance at the event was confirmed by the White House on Sunday.
Trump will appear with Indian PM Narendra Modi at next Sunday’s “Howdy, Modi” event at NRG Stadium in Houston, which is expected to be attended by tens of thousands, the White House has announced.— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) September 15, 2019
The decision to attend, Indian paper The Wire reported Saturday, was in the works for months:
Trump and Modi's political managers have apparently been in touch since the two leaders met in Biarritz, France on the sidelines of the G-7 Summit on August 26 and came up with the idea. Modi reportedly promised to buy more oil and weapons from the US—the kind of promise that makes Trump smile.
The president is expected to deliver remarks and bask in the support of the 50,000 attendees.
"Thousands of Indian Americans who are minorities in this country will attend an event celebrating two supremacists," said professor Ayesha Ray.
Modi, in a tweet, celebrated the president's decision to attend the event.
"The special gesture of President Trump 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," said Modi.
Critics pointed to similarities between Trump and Modi and called the event a meeting of like-minded leaders.
"Birds of a feather, fascist together," said Al Jazeera host Sana Saeed.
Writer Wajahat Ali pointed to Modi's record and how Trump didn't, at best, seem to care about it.
"Modi is a Hindu Nationalist who was denied entry to the U.S. for years because he was responsible for failing to stop the massacre of Muslims in India when he was minister of Gujrat," said Ali. "Trump loves the best people."