Visiting Indian prime ministers have always had such interactions with the Indian American community, but they were mostly smaller in size and lower in wattage.
The Indian government picked up the tab usually.
But Modi’s interaction — at a venue that has hosted all major musicians and entertainers in the world and even a Pope — will be massive in comparison. And expensive. The prime minister is scheduled to visit the United States towards the end of September. He will start with New York where he will attend the UN’s general assembly.
He then comes to DC for a meeting with President Barack Obama, and other engagements that are still being worked out — an address to US congress is out.
Indian Americans are most excited about the MSG event, where they will finally come face to face with the man they have been rooting for for years now, and campaigned for in last elections. Modi last traveled to the United States over a decade ago. Since 2005, he couldn’t because his tourist visa was cancelled that year and he was denied one meant for officials.
The MSG event will make up for that lost time. But someone has to pay for it. The organizers wanted to make it a ticketed event — charging perhaps $25 a head. They were told the Prime Minister didn’t quite like the idea.
They then looked at a ticketed lunch/dinner — a routine affair in US politics. That too didn’t look possible. A paid photo-op? Nixed again, because “you don’t know who will show up”.