Stepping up connections
In Prime Minister Narendra Modi's biggest ever American rally, strengthening ties with the US came forth as an intent of crucial significance. Relations with the United States are seen as decisive in securing India's economic and strategic aspirations. The Indian Prime Minister with his US counterpart, President Donald Trump addressed the "Howdy Modi" event in Houston and this is widely read as a direct endorsement of India's Kashmir policy by the US. Marked by a spectacular delivery of multiple messages, Prime Minister Modi's diplomatic triumph has added new dimensions to India's relations with America. The most note-worthy aspect of this tour is its timing, in the wake of the government of India scrapping the special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, making inoperative Article 370 which ensured the state's special status, and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories. With the situation attempted to be internationalised by Pakistan in any whichway, in this critical time for India internally, Prime Minister Modi has earned a significant global currency. In less than 50 minutes of address, Modi leveraged all of India's wide range of strengths subsuming demography, diaspora, diversity, democracy, economy, the modernisation steadily making its way into the society. A cornerstone of the India-US relations is the vast Indian diaspora, the Indian-American community having been a crucial factor for Delhi in overcoming opposition in Washington to the nuclear deal a decade ago. The lobbying power of the Indian community in the US is decisive and comes handy in easing out difficult situation in bilateral negotiations. Repeated gestures to address this community is thus desirable, the first address in Madison Square in 2014 was very well received and set a template for subsequent events in countries other than the US. The Houston event in particular focuses attention on India's globally watched move on Kashmir. Bringing the US in confidence over this is necessary to negate any support extended to Pakistan, especially at a time when it is leaving no stone unturned to mobilise negative opinion about India across the significant world for its domestic action. Also, considering that it was not too long ago when happenings on the commercial front caused India-US ties to hit a rough patch and given that internally, India's economic health is critical and that it is for all to see, Modi's Houston tour is expected to be one with clearly carried intents. Added to that, Houston also stands out because Trump too attended the 50,000 strong rally along with Modi, making it the first event of its kind, cementing ties in a novel manner.
Meeting Kashmiri Pundits and assuring them of a new Kashmir in a foreign land is a move with several implications and of great significance. Setting a tone for a fresh wave of life in Kashmir, the Prime Minister said to the delegation of Kashmiri Pundits that, "Kashmir mein naee hava bah rahee hai (New winds are blowing in Kashmir) and we will all build a new Kashmir together that will be for everyone". This special interaction with a 17-member delegation of Kashmiri Pandits in Houston came as an assurance to rebuild the conflict-defined region and make it a place for everyone. As in intention, it is highly commendable and it is a very worthy aspiration but seeing how matters stand at home, bringing in any kind of normalcy to stabilise the region is the determining first step to make this claim a reality. The community of Kashmiri Pundits in Houston unequivocally supported the steps taken by the Indian government in the direction of progress and empowerment of every Indian and expressed that the 700,000-strong community is "indebted" to his government. Roping in the Kashmiri Pundit diaspora in rebuilding Kashmir is indeed very desirable and also necessary for the place to thrive but what cannot be overlooked is that cause of conflict in the region—insurgency perpetuated by Pakistan to undo the constructive efforts of India and prevent peace from prevailing in Kashmir. Skipping this step and moving on with the plans regarding the desired consequences of an intended course of actions leaves a question mark on the current state of affairs. However, the matter of restoring Kashmir extensively to nearly its pre-'90s times is a complex area for elaborate deliberations. With this and so many other gnawing concerns back at home, the Prime Minister's Houston tour indeed was a much needed remedial measure at the right time to attempt mitigating not only India's economic woes, but also consolidate necessary support in the wake disempowering Article 370 and consequently, a frenzied Pakistan.