On Sunday September 22nd, Houston, Texas welcomed India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to NRG Stadium to address Texas-based Indian diaspora on issues including national security, trade, and US-India relations. With an estimated 50,000 attendees, ‘Howdy, Modi! Shared Dreams, Bright Futures’ was the largest gathering for an invited foreign leader in the United States since Pope Francis visited in 2015.
Following a 90-minute cultural program consisting of performances led by over 400 local dancers, Modi was gifted the key to the city of Houston by Mayor Sylvester Turner as thunderous applause rocked the stadium. Not long after, Prime Minister Modi re-entered the stage hand-in-hand with President Trump, as dozens of US federal and state officials sat in attendance.
It should come as no surprise that Houston is the site of Narendra Modi’s now third US address. Not only is Houston India’s fourth-largest bilateral trading partner — with Houston-India trade valued at $4.3 billion in 2017— but the city also hosts one of America’s largest Indian diaspora populations with over 150,000 residence identifying as Indian-American. Recent investments in Texas by Indian IT company Wipro, business development talks, and a visit by India's Cotton delegation have only continued to strengthen ties between Texas and India.
Energy, particularly natural gas, was the focus of Modi’s first event during his week-long US trip, and has been a growing focal point between the United States and India. Taking place the day before ‘Howdy, Modi!’, PM Modi held a roundtable meeting with 17 global energy CEOs, which strengthened the US-India Strategic Energy Partnership between Washington and Delhi.
As talks focused around energy security and expanding mutual investment opportunities, the big deliverable came after the meeting when Houston-based natural gas company Tellurian and India-based importer Petronet LNG Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding. The agreement stipulated that Tellurian will import up to 5 million tons of liquefied natural gas to Petronet in India in exchange for Petronet’s investment of $2.5 billion in Tellurian’s Louisiana-based Driftwood project. Both companies hope to finalize the transaction agreements by the end of March, 2020.
Prime Minster Modi’s Houston trip may have lasted just 48 hours, but ‘Howdy, Modi!’ symbolizes a milestone in India-US relations, and Modi’s work in the Houston’s energy sector may also prove to be mutually beneficial for years to come.
Amy Namur is a participant in the East-West Center's Young Professionals Program and a recent graduate from the United Nations University-MERIT.