Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to further solidify Indo-US ties
New Delhi: US President Donald Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and top brass of his administration, will kick-start an eagerly awaited tour of India on Monday, a visit expected to significantly ramp up bilateral defence and strategic ties but unlikely to produce tangible outcome in resolving thorny issues like trade tariffs.
The nearly 36-hour-long visit by Trump is also set to send across a clear message of growing congruence of interests on major geopolitical developments in the region and beyond, particularly when China has been expanding its military and economic clout.
In their talks on Tuesday, Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are likely to focus on a wide variety of bilateral and regional issues including trade and investment, defence and security, counter-terrorism, energy security, religious freedom, proposed peace deal with Taliban in Afghanistan and situation in the Indo-Pacific, according to Indian and US officials.
The US president’s visit to India comes at a time when the country has been witnessing wide-spread protests against a new citizenship law, and strain in New Delhi’s ties with Islamabad over the Kashmir issue.
“President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private. He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration,” a senior official at the White House said.
Notwithstanding wrinkles in ties, the two sides are likely to showcase Trump’s maiden visit to India as a reflection of growing global strategic partnership between the two democracies.
On Thursday, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said around five pacts providing for cooperation in areas of intellectual property rights, trade facilitation and homeland security are expected to be finalised during Trump’s visit.
A major highlight will be the likely signing of a deal to procure 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters by India from the US at a cost of USD 2.6 billion. Another contract to acquire six AH-64E Apache helicopters for USD 800 million from the US is also on the table.
As hopes for sealing the much-anticipated trade deal faded away, Kumar said India does not want to create “artificial deadlines”. The US has been seeking greater access to India’s huge poultry and dairy markets. However, India has some reservations over it.
India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said ties between India and the US have evolved to one of the “most consequential” relationships today and both countries have unprecedented convergence of interests.
He said Trump and his delegation will be treated to India’s rich and diverse cultural heritage during his visit to Ahmedabad in a manner that has few parallels in the country or elsewhere.
Trump, who is seeking renomination in the US presidential elections in November, and his delegation will arrive on Monday around noon in Ahmedabad in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
“India looks forward to welcoming @POTUS @realDonaldTrump. It is an honour that he will be with us tomorrow, starting with the historic programme in Ahmedabad,” Modi wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to greet Trump in a road show in Ahmedabad before he arrives at the newly-built Motera cricket stadium, which has a capacity of over 1,00,000 people, for the ‘Namaste Trump’ event.
As many as 28 stages representing the various parts of the country have been set up along Trump’s route from the airport to Motera stadium, in what is being called as the India Road Show.
The entire city has been spruced up to welcome Trump, his family members and the high-powered delegation comprising Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and Energy Secretary Dan Broulliette.
‘Namaste Trump’ will be similar to the landmark ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event hosted by the Indian-American community in honour of Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Houston in September 2019, said an official.
From Ahmedabad, the US president will travel to Agra to have a glimpse of the iconic Taj Mahal. The Trump family will spend about an hour at the Taj Mahal before sunset. Then they will leave for Delhi for the main leg of the visit.
On the morning of February 25, Trump and the First Lady would be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
From there, they would go to Rajghat to pay homage at the ‘samadhi’ of Mahatma Gandhi.
It would be followed by restricted and delegation-level talks between Trump and Modi at Hyderabad House.
Prime Minister Modi would host a lunch for the US president following the talks.
In the afternoon, Trump is expected to attend certain private events at the US Embassy, including a roundtable with industry representatives.
In the evening, the US president will meet President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
A banquet will be hosted by Kovind. President Trump would depart from India later that evening.