Indians were glued to their televisions and phone screens today as President Donald Trump was joined by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak before 125,000 cheering guests. The event was the first on a two-day visit to the country — his first official trip to the country since taking office.
Upon landing Trump was greeted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a warm hug before embarking on a tour of Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram, the former home of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.
The president and the Indian prime minister began a 14-mile roadshow from the airport to India’s new cricket stadium, the world’s largest, where crowds of more than 110,000 people have gathered to welcome the U.S. president.
Modi, the president, and his entourage traveled to Agra where Trump toured the iconic Taj Mahal at sunset. The next stop was New Delhi, where they are expected to discuss a number of U.S.-Indo trade deals.
It is also believed Trump will bring up the plight of Indian Christians who increasingly find themselves under persecution in many areas of the country. Trump has made the persecution of Christians a major focus of his foreign policy initiatives.
In October, the Trump administration sent Religious Freedom Ambassador Sam Brownback to India. Brownback traveled to New Delhi for discussions on expanding U.S.-India cooperation and shared global objectives, and to visit religious sites, including the Lotus Temple. He also lobbied on behalf of the millions of Indian Christians under attack.
U.S.-India bilateral trade stood at $87.95 billion in 2018-2019, The Economic Times reported, overtaking India’s trade with China.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) February 24, 2020
Now, in the upcoming trade negotiations, Trump wants the Asian nation to grant free market access to more U.S. products as his administration seeks to reduce the United States’ overall trade deficit. Trump had previously called India a “tariff king.”
Some of his demands have not been well received by Modi’s government, which fears that things such as the free import of U.S. dairy items may have a negative impact on Indian farmers.
The unrestricted flow of foreign goods was one of the reasons India cited for walking out of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership held in Bangkok in November last year.
After behind the scenes negotiations, India, it seems, has been brought back the table by Trump.
Speaking in Washington earlier this month, Trump said he was willing to sign a trade deal with India “if it is the right one.”
“They [Indians] want to do something and we’ll see … if we can make the right deal, [we] will do it,” news agency IANS quoted Trump as saying.
Trump appeared in high spirits as he departed Washington on Feb. 24, alongside First Lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner, writing on Twitter that he was looking forward to “being with my great friends in India!”
President Trump is hugely popular in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “India awaits your arrival @POTUS @realDonaldTrump! Your visit is definitely going to further strengthen the friendship between our nations. See you very soon in Ahmedabad.”
The president’s visit to India may also serve as an opportunity to increase the 2.4 million-strong Indian-American voter base in the United States—those who typically vote Democrat, according to the National Asian American Survey (pdf). In 2016, only 16 percent Indian Americans voted for Trump, the survey said.
–EPTimes and wire services