A pair of world leaders held court Sunday in a departure from the usual rallies attended by President Donald Trump.
Trump joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Houston attended by tens of thousands, many of whom were waving Indian flags as both leaders praised each other’s work.
Breaking away from the staid formality of meetings at the White House, Trump took the stage with Modi at an event dubbed “Howdy, Modi!” at NRG Stadium. Roughly 50,000 people – many from the city’s large Indian diaspora – were registered to attend.
Trump credited the Indian-American community with “helping to strengthen our country and build our future,” citing its contributions to medicine, business and technology.
The President praised Modi’s leadership and touted the “stronger than ever before” relationship with India. He said India “has never had a better friend as President than President Donald Trump.”
Trump linked his concerns about security at the US-Mexico border with India’s security concerns about its border with Pakistan. “Both India and US also understand that to keep our communities safe, we must protect our borders,” Trump said.
The President addressed those affected by the serious flooding in Texas, and pledged the full support of his administration.
Modi praised Trump, calling him “warm, friendly, accessible, energetic and full of wit.”
The Indian prime minister appealed directly to Trump’s crowd-craving sensibilities with a large stadium event, giving Trump a rally setting where he tends to thrive and feel invigorated.
The rally gave Trump an opportunity to appeal to Indian-American voters in Harris County, which has been at the heart of Texas’ gradual shift from reliably Republican to competitive battleground. Modi, who is set to attend the United Nations General Assembly this week, could help give Trump a bump in his battle for reelection.
On stage, Modi introduced Trump as India’s “true friend” in the White House, and he invoked Trump in his signature campaign slogan, “Ab ki baar, Modi sarkar,” which translates to “This time, Modi government.” On stage, Modi replaced his name with Trump’s.
He commended the Trump administration for celebrating Diwali at the White House, and he invited Trump and his family to come to India.
Modi said he is “certain that some positive developments” will come out of upcoming talks at the UN. “President Trump calls me the top negotiator but he himself is great at the ‘Art of the deal’ and I am learning a lot from him,” he said.
The event was the first of two events on Sunday with foreign leaders in battleground states. After the rally, Trump flew to Wapakoneta, Ohio, to tour an Australian-owned cardboard manufacturing plant alongside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who Trump feted with a state dinner on Friday.
The events were an opportunity for both Modi and Morrison to show the US President they can deliver in ways that are especially appealing to Trump.
In the critical battleground state of Ohio, Morrison was expected to demonstrate that his country is contributing to the US economy and creating manufacturing jobs as the two men tour a Pratt Industries manufacturing facility.
The events come as Trump continues to face questions about whether he pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, while withholding military aid to the country. Trump has defended the call, dubbing criticism of it a “Ukraine Witch Hunt,” while Biden on Saturday accused Trump of abusing the power of his presidency.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
Trump will cap off his Sunday travel with a flight to New York, where he will address the United Nations General Assembly later in the week and meet with world leaders on its sidelines.
CNN’s Swati Gupta contributed to this report.