Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's historic state visit to the US next month, Indian Americans are planning to welcome him with an 'India Unity Day' march in 20 major cities across America on June 18, organisers have announced.
Prime Minister Modi will embark on his first state visit to the US at the invitation of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden in June. The US president and the First Lady will also host Modi at a state dinner on June 22.
“The (Indian American) community is really excited (about Modi’s visit). The community is gathering on June 18 here in Washington DC at the National Monument. And there will be a march from Washington Monument to Lincoln Memorial, calling it 'India Unity Day' and welcoming Modiji. That is two days in advance,” said community leader Adapa Prasad, who is also the national president of Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP) USA.
Also at the same time, in about 20 places across the United States, “from east to west, from north to south, covering major cities” there will be similar welcome marches at iconic places like Times Square in New York and Golden Bridge in San Francisco, he said on Sunday.
The other cities are Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Columbus, and St Louis.
Describing the state visit as a historic event that makes the community feel proud, Prasad said all major sections of Indian Americans have joined hands in welcoming the prime minister and making it a memorable event. Plans are afoot to welcome the prime minister at all major places in New York and Washington DC, the two cities on his itinerary so far.
While a group of Indian Americans are planning to go to Andrews Air Force Base when the Prime Minister lands on June 21 afternoon from New York for the state visit, hundreds of the community members are planning to gather at Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House.
For several hours that afternoon, various groups and organisations of Indian Americans were planning a cultural extravaganza showcasing the diversity of India.
On the evening of June 21, as he arrives at a Washington DC hotel, the Indian American community has planned to have a cultural event spanning Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and West to East different cultural events in front of the White House, Prasad said.
He said the programme will be an audio and video display of the growth of India, development of India during the last nine years.
Some of the Indian-origin elected representatives are also likely to attend.
“This (event) is also to showcase to the American public what India is all about,” he said.
On June 22, a couple of thousands of Indian Americans are planning to be on the South Lawns of the White House when President Biden and the First Lady would welcome the Prime Minister amidst a 21-gun salute. The White House has already started sending invitations for the welcome ceremony.
“On (June) 22nd morning,...we are expecting about three to 5,000 Indian diaspora invited by White House on the lawns of the White House. That is a historic moment because this is the first time any country-specific diaspora is invited to the White House in such large numbers,” Prasad said.
An overwhelming majority of the Indian American community, he said, is delighted with the development story of India and “Modi's sincerity and his commitment to India.” “So, they're excited. Modiji is like a rockstar to the Indian American community here, and probably it's true for the entire Indian Diaspora. Anywhere he goes, either in, UK or Australia,” he said.
Several other Indian American community leaders have welcomed the state visit of the prime minister.
"I am delighted to see the proposed visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the United States," said Ajay Bhutoria, a prominent Indian-American leader and advocate for stronger US-India relations.
"This visit serves as a testament to the strong and enduring partnership between our two great nations. It reaffirms the warm bonds of family and friendship that unite the American and Indian people," he said.
“During prime minister Modi’s first state visit to the USA he will have the opportunity to discuss with President Biden strong bilateral cooperation in various areas of mutual interest including but not limited to technology, trade, industry, education, research, clean energy, defence,” said Ashok Mago, an eminent Indian American from Houston who has played a key role in strengthening India US relationship.
“India and the US are “strategic partners” but we can’t say that they are formal allies. While they have much in common, India doesn't feel bound to sync its worldview with the USA. There is a need for a deeper collaboration when it comes to technology,” he said.
Modi's visit to the US comes ahead of the G20 Summit being hosted by India in September.
After becoming Prime Minister in 2014, Modi has made more than half a dozen trips to the United States for bilateral and multilateral meetings with all three American presidents, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now Biden, but this is for the first time he has been invited for an official state visit, a privilege accorded to America's close friends and allies.
His last visit to Washington was in September 2021 at the invitation of President Biden for a bilateral meeting. He had also attended the first in-person Quad Leaders Summit hosted by Biden.
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