Donald Trump is on his maiden visit to India, and his first stop is the western state of Gujarat, the home of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has pulled out all stops to woo the US president.
As India’s growth has slumped in recent years, the Hindu nationalist government has turned protectionist and raised tariffs that have irked the Trump administration.
“We’re not treated very well by India, but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot,” the US president said before the trip.
President Trump has hinted there will not be a trade deal during the trip as his administration has been trying to reduce its $25bn trade deficit with India. Bilateral trade between the two countries is worth $142bn.
However, a deal worth $2.6bn to buy attack helicopters from US defence firm Lockheed Martin might be finalised during the trip, according to media reports.
Analysts say Modi would like to use his personal chemistry with Trump to smooth over the differences in trade.
On Monday, the Indian prime minister tweeted: The “visit is definitely going to further strengthen the friendship between our nations. See you very soon in Ahmedabad.”
Analysts say the highlight of the trip will be the joint Modi-Trump address to an audience of more than 100,000 at a cricket stadium in Ahmedabad for the first leg of the trip, which comes in an election year.
They say the trip is high on optics and Trump will use the occasion to woo nearly 2.5 million Indian American voters.
As he embarked on the visit, the US president tweeted in Hindi saying he was looking forward to it.
The event, called “Namaste Trump” (Hello Trump), seems to be Modi’s return favour to Trump, who hosted the Indian prime minister in the US city of Houston last September. The two right-wing leaders had addressed a crowd of 50,000 as part of a “Howdy Modi” extravaganza.
Ahmedabad is decked out, with the road from the airport to the new Motera stadium decorated with life-sized posters of Modi and Trump.
Walls have been erected along the route, apparently to prevent Trump from catching a glimpse of slums, though municipal authorities said it was part of a “beautification” drive.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that a large number of people would be greeting President Trump as his cavalcade moved towards the stadium.
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