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Trump To Make First Presidential Visit To India: What's On The Agenda

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Trump To Make First Presidential Visit To India: What's On The Agenda

The world's biggest democracy meets the world's largest economy next week, with U.S. President Donald Trump's scheduled visit to India Feb. 24 and 25.

This is his first visit to India as president and comes at a time when bilateral relations between the two countries, though not hostile, leave much to be desired.

Both Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi share a rapport that stems from their fundamental similarities. Both are known to be flamboyant and attention-seeking, and both thrive on whipping up nationalistic fervor even at the expense of alienating minorities and immigrants, with scant regard for institutions.

Announcing Trump's visit, Modi tweeted his delight in hosting the president and First Lady Melania Trump. 

Crowded 36-Hour Agenda For Trump

The president and the first lady are scheduled to arrive at the Sardar Vallabhai Airport in Ahmedabad, a major city in the Northwestern state of Gujarat, which incidentally is Modi's home state.

After a few engagements in the city, the Trumps will be flown to Agra for a visit to Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world and a monument of love.

After a stop at Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, aka the "Father of the Nation," Trump will meet with the Indian President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official presidential residence in New Delhi.

Unlike in the U.S., the president is the nominal head of state in India, and the executive power lies with the prime minister.

Trump and Modi are set to discuss bilateral ties between the countries in a meeting at the Hyderabad House.

Trump is also scheduled to meet top Indian business leaders as part of a CEO roundtable at the U.S. embassy before leaving India. 

Trump's Math May Not Add Up 

Trump will be taken through a 13.5-mile stretch in Ahmedabad en route to the Motera Stadium, the world's largest cricket stadium.

Trump and Modi will address the "Namaste Trump" event that is being readied for the visiting dignitary. "Namaste" is the traditional Indian greeting phrase. 

This event is expected to be something like the "Howdy Modi" event, which was hosted by Trump for Modi in September 2019 in Houston, Texas and attended by about 50,000 Indo-Americans — the largest gathering for a foreign leader in the U.S.

"We'll have 7 million people between the airport and the event," Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland earlier this week.

In a subsequent comment at a "Keep America Great" rally in Colorado, Trump reportedly said anywhere from 6 to 10 million people would show up along the way to the stadium.

The entire population of the city, according to the 2011 census, amounts to 5.5 million, and is estimated to have grown to about 8.6 million by 2020.

The local government has erected a wall along 1,640 feet of the route in an apparent effort to hide the slums behind it.

Comparisons are being drawn to the "Trump wall" the president has proposed  along the U.S.-Mexico border, augmenting the existing barrier in order to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the U.S.

Much Ado About Nothing?

Although a Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said in a press briefing there would be restricted delegation-level talks and MoU agreements, expectations concerning any solid progress between the U.S. and India are muted.

"India has been hitting the U.S. very hard on trade for many years with high tariffs," Trump said ahead of next week's meeting.

India is expected to appease the U.S. with a promise to cut tariffs to single digits.

Additionally, India is likely to sign on the dotted lines to procure 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters valued at $2.6 billion, bolstering defense ties, the Economic Times reported.

Although stating at the Hope for Prisoners Graduation Ceremony in Las Vegas that a "tremendous deal" with India could be in the offing, Trump backtracked immediately after.

" ... Or maybe we'll slow it down. We'll do it after the election. I think that could happen too," he said. 

"But we're only making deals if they're good deals because we we're putting America first. Whether people like it or not, we're putting America first." 

President Donald Trump climbs the stairs to board Air Force One at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Feb. 20. White House photo by Shealah Craighead.  

 

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