By Yasmeen Abutaleb
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not only speak to Silicon Valley's biggest executives during his two-day visit to the U.S. tech hub yet will moreover take questions from some of Facebook Inc's 1.5 billion users at a town hall on Sunday.
Modi, 65, is the first Indian leader to visit the U.S. West Coast in more than 30 years. His trip follows a similar visit by China's president, Xi Jinping, who met several tech leaders in Seattle last week.
The Indian premier continues his Silicon Valley tour on Sunday with visits to Facebook & Google Inc headquarters before an event at the San Jose Convention Center that 18,000 people are expected to attend.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announced Modi's visit on his Facebook page earlier this month & invited users to post questions.
More than 37,000 comments were made in reply, with questions ranging from those approximately Internet expansion in India, unemployment rates & calls for Modi to address his human rights record.
Modi has been criticized for not doing enough to stop 2002 religious riots in Gujarat that killed approximately 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, when he was chief minister of the state. He has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Some groups have protested against his arrival. The Sikhs for Justice group has called on its members to picket Facebook headquarters before the town hall.
However, Modi remains wildly popular & is expected to receive a rock-star welcome through most of his visit.
Modi boasts an 87 percent approval rating in India & is the second-most popular world leader on social media after U.S. President Barack Obama. He has 15 million Twitter followers & more than 30 million "likes" on Facebook.
Modi is eager to bring bigger technology investments & jobs back to India to assist its growing startup scene. He has moreover sought to encourage some Indians who have thrived around Silicon Valley to bring their knowledge back home.
Much of his visit, which began Saturday, has moreover focused on connecting with the Indian diaspora community in Silicon Valley.
On Saturday, he attended a dinner with 350 business leaders where Indian-born CEOs Satya Nadella of Microsoft Corp, Google Inc's Sundar Pichai & Shantanu Narayen of Adobe Systems Inc moderated a panel.
Modi visited Tesla Motors headquarters on Saturday & met Chief Executive Elon Musk, where the two discussed battery technology, energy storage & renewable energy. He moreover met Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook.
(Editing by Paul Tait)