Enthusiastic Indian-Americans gathered at iconic locations across 20 US cities and organised unity marches to send a message of welcome to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi days ahead of his State Visit to the United States.
PM Modi is visiting the US from June 21-24 at the invitation of US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. They will host Modi at a state dinner on June 22. The visit also includes an address to the Joint Session of the US Congress on June 22.
He will address an invitation-only gathering of diaspora leaders from across the country at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington on June 23.
A few hundred Indian-Americans from in and around the Washington DC area gathered near the National Monument on a bright sunny Sunday to convey a message of unity and tell the prime minister that they are eagerly waiting for his arrival in the city.
Chanting slogans of "Modi Modi" and India-US friendship, Indian Americans walked in a procession for over an hour towards the historic Lincoln Memorial where the participants busted into an impromptu dance.
In Houston, the community members gathered at the iconic Sugarland Memorial Park, holding placards and Indian tri-colour to coincide with the timings of other cities like Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, Dallas, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Columbus, and St Louis.
Similar scenes were visible at many iconic locations in the United States like Times Square in New York and Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
"The Indian American community and major business stakeholders in various industries like energy, space, health, education and IT, are really excited and optimistic all across the USA, about the historic visit of PM Modi," said Aseem Mahajan, Consul General of Houston.
"We are receiving an overwhelming number of messages, welcoming PM Modi, from all across the country from elected officials, major business houses and other Indian American organisations on a daily basis that are being shared on social media," Mahajan said.
Community leaders in Texas and other parts of the country are ready to fly to New York and Washington DC to witness this significant event.
The visuals coming out from the 20 cities and the frantic search for tickets for various Modi events in Washington DC and New York is reflective of his high popularity in the country, which many said is a phenomenon or a euphoria that has refused to die down even nine years after he came to power, the organisers of various events said.
"It's Modi phenomenon," MR Rangaswami, entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of Indiaspora told PTI in an interview.
Several thousand Indian-Americans are expected to attend the Welcome Ceremony on the South Lawns of the White House on Thursday when President Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden welcome him.
While a large number of Indian-Americans are still looking for a ticket to the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter the White House complex, there is a frantic search for a ticket to the address by Modi to the Joint Meeting of the US Congress.
Senators and Congressmen are having a tough time deciding whom to give their one ticket to watch the speech of the prime minister from the visitor's gallery.
The guest list of the State Dinner to be held on the White House lawns is a closely guarded secret. The office of the First Lady has not released any information related to the State Dinner. However, speculation is rife that some 400 people would be attending the luncheon being hosted in honour of the prime minister.
It is expected that the five Indian-American Congress representatives of the unofficially-named 'samosa caucus'; Ami Bera, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Shri Thanedar have been invited to the State Dinner, along with some of the top Indian American CEOs including Satya Nadella from Microsoft, Sunder Pichai from Google, Raj Subramaniam from FedEx.
Several eminent Indian American serving in the Biden Administration like Neera Tanden, Dr Vivek Murthy, and Dr Rahul Gupta are also expected to attend the State Dinner.
Closer defence ties top agenda for PM's US visit
India and the US are poised to unveil a roadmap for industries in the sector to partner closely in co-production, co-development and maintaining supply change during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the US beginning June 21.
Addressing a press conference here, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said the prime minister will also be on a state visit to Egypt from June 24-25 at the invitation of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during which he is also scheduled to visit 11th Century mosque Al-Hakim, which was refurbished and renovated by the Bohra community.
The foreign secretary said the Defence Industrial Cooperation Roadmap was expected to be one of the key outcomes of Prime Minister Modi's visit to the US.
"It essentially focuses on all aspects of defence co-production and co-development. It also talks about how defence industrial ecosystems of the two countries could cooperate much better, how the supply lines in the field of defence industry could also interface with each other much better," he said.
Kwatra described defence cooperation as a "key pillar" of India's relationship with the US.
The US corporate sector has its own interest in India.
A stable and strong government and good governance under Modi along with a series of business-friendly reforms that he has carried out in the last few years, which offers a viable alternative to China, is one of the prime reasons for the prime minister's among the American corporate leadership.
Gitesh Desai, a prominent Houston community leader, who was also the spokesperson of the historic Howdy Modi event in 2019, said: "I am thrilled along with other Indian Americans for PM Modi's visit and would like to warmly welcome him."
He said the visit is a testament to the robust and vibrant US-India bilateral relationship.
"It is once in a lifetime opportunity," he said.
"This reflects burgeoning trade, defence, and strategic partnership indicating our two countries' commitment to a peaceful and prosperous world, especially in the Indo-Pacific region," he said.