US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embrace in the Rose Garden during a joint press conference  at the White House in Washington, DC, June 26, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embrace in the Rose Garden during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, June 26, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:59
Watch Trump and Modi's bear hug
Goya Foods President Robert Unanue speaks at a press conference with Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan Ambassador who is recognized by the United States on December 21, 2020 in Doral, Florida. The two held the press conference to discuss details of a recent shipment of humanitarian aid to Venezuela, donated by Goya Foods. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Goya Foods President Robert Unanue speaks at a press conference with Carlos Vecchio, the Venezuelan Ambassador who is recognized by the United States on December 21, 2020 in Doral, Florida. The two held the press conference to discuss details of a recent shipment of humanitarian aid to Venezuela, donated by Goya Foods. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:24
Goya CEO under fire for false Trump election claims
Kinzinger
PHOTO: CNN
Kinzinger
Now playing
03:55
Republican lawmaker reacts to being on Trump's 'enemies list'
Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the first day of the Republican convention at the Mellon auditorium on August 24, 2020 in Washington, DC (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images
Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during the first day of the Republican convention at the Mellon auditorium on August 24, 2020 in Washington, DC (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
04:41
Haley flip flops on Trump, praising his 'strong speech'
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 26: Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 26: Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference being held in the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Begun in 1974, CPAC brings together conservative organizations, activists, and world leaders to discuss issues important to them. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Now playing
04:12
Women allege sexual misconduct against North Carolina GOP lawmaker
trump investigators murray dnt 03012021
PHOTO: CNN
trump investigators murray dnt 03012021
Now playing
02:56
Five elected investigators are turning their attention to Trump
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a COVID-19 vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
PHOTO: Seth Wenig/Pool/AP
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a COVID-19 vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
Now playing
04:18
Gov. Cuomo accuser says he hasn't taken responsibility for his actions
Now playing
03:12
Avlon on CPAC: It was a hyperpartisan temper tantrum
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a COVID-19 vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
PHOTO: Seth Wenig/Pool/AP
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a COVID-19 vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
Now playing
02:26
Haberman: This is the first time I can remember Cuomo apologizing
Now playing
02:11
'Sad': Kinzinger blasts Hawley's CPAC remarks
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a COVID-19 vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
PHOTO: Seth Wenig/Pool/AP
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a news conference at a COVID-19 vaccination site in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)
Now playing
01:12
Gov. Andrew Cuomo responds to allegations of sexual harassment
 Psaki biden White House Khashoggi Saudi Arabia sotu bash vpx _00011629.png
PHOTO: CNN
Psaki biden White House Khashoggi Saudi Arabia sotu bash vpx _00011629.png
Now playing
03:42
Bash to Psaki: Why hasn't Saudi Arabia been held accountable for murder of Khashoggi?
Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) speaks during opening ceremonies of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly at the Virginia State Capitol on January 8, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia.
PHOTO: Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) speaks during opening ceremonies of the 2020 Virginia General Assembly at the Virginia State Capitol on January 8, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia.
Now playing
04:26
Virginia's political shift from red to purple to blue
senator bill cassidy sotu bash vpx _00002611.png
senator bill cassidy sotu bash vpx _00002611.png
Now playing
01:42
GOP senator: If we continue to idolize one person, we will lose
Now playing
01:27
Kristi Noem gets standing ovation for Dr. Fauci dig at CPAC
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
PHOTO: House TV
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Now playing
02:52
House passes Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package
(CNN) —  

Donald Trump heads to Houston, Texas, on Sunday to join a major rally of tens of thousands of Indian-Americans, but the US President won’t be headlining.

Instead, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the star.

“Howdy, Modi!” is billed to be the largest gathering for any foreign leader visiting the US, “other than the Pope,” according to the event’s website.

As a fan of impressive crowd sizes, it’s the type of hyperbole you can imagine Trump appreciating.

And, in more ways than one, Trump and Modi are cut from the same cloth.

Both populist leaders energize their respective bases with big rallies and even bigger personalities. They’ve received criticism at home for driving wedges through their electorates along religious and cultural lines. And their particular brand of “Made in America/India,” have meted mixed results.

Their similar strongman tactics have also landed them at loggerheads. After failing to secure a trade deal earlier this year, the leaders have exchanged tariffs. But the joint appearance Sunday seems to indicate there’s no love lost.

Make India Great Again

Over the last five years, Modi has consistently trumpeted the slogan that would become Trump’s signature campaign promise: India (or America, in Trump’s case) comes first.

Within months of taking office in 2014, Modi launched “Make in India” – a campaign promoting local manufacturing.

His goal? Building a self-sufficient economy capable of feeding a population of 1.3 billion.

Now, as India’s economy stagnates, that message is faltering – an obstacle Trump has not yet had to face down.

In 2016, Modi’s government demonetized 85% of the country’s currency and plunged the economy into chaos. And in 2017, the government enforced a goods and services tax, which has since been repeatedly amended to counter widespread objections. Last month, they pushed a constitutional amendment through Parliament that downgraded the federal status of India’s only Muslim majority state – Jammu and Kashmir.

India’s economy slowed to a 6-year low, expanding just 5% in the April-June quarter, with analysts warning the slump could persist for the next few years. The country’s unemployment rate is also the highest in 45 years and the manufacturing sector is heading into a recession.

Hopes that Modi’s ambitious economic programs for India – Asia’s third largest economy – would lead to massive growth are dwindling.

“If you are a lower middle-income economy (like India) then it is important to sustain growth. And it should be able to sustain growth for years while for developed economies these kinds of cycles are quite common,” said Suyash Rai, a fellow at Carnegie India, a think tank.

Controversial outsiders

In the run-up to the 2014 national elections, Modi introduced himself as a political outsider – much like Trump.

He sold himself as a former tea seller with a tough reputation, a great administrator and India’s only hope against a dynastic political party that had run its course.

His popularity has only increased since then. Modi and his right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won re-election this year with an even bigger mandate than the last time, even amid criticism about their track record on human rights.

During a campaign rally this year, Modi’s chief aide and now India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah likened migrants from Muslim-majority Bangladesh as “termites” and promised to throw them out of the country.

The past five years in India have been marked by an increase in tensions between Hindu-Muslim communities, widespread mob lynchings, and nationwide protests by India’s lower-caste Dalit community.

Last month, in an exercise to weed out illegal immigration in the eastern state of Assam, the government excluded 1.9 million Indians from the National Register of Citizens, who now stand to lose statehood if they’re unable to win a labyrinthine appeal process.

Modi-Trump bromance?

India and the US have gradually become natural allies over the past few decades as they arm themselves against China and growing destabilization in the South Asia region.

Since Trump took office, both leaders have met a number of times.

“It means that at the highest level there is clear intent to find common ground and make this bilateral relationship work across various domains from trade to defense to diplomatic relations,” Rai said.

This latest high-profile meeting in Houston comes after months of escalating tensions between India and the US over trade.

Trump has repeatedly slammed India for taking advantage of the US, and both countries have slapped fresh tariffs on each other over the last year.

India’s move to impose tariffs on 28 US products, including almonds, apples and some chemicals came into effect weeks after Modi won re-election.

But analysts are finally expecting positive movement at Sunday’s event after a year of friction over trade.

“Reports suggest that they have been intensely negotiating and talking about finding common ground on those issues. There could be an announcement,” said Rai.