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India’s rise as a prosperous democratic nation inspiring, says Trump

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with US President Donald Trump during the 'Namaste Trump' event at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad (Photo: PTI)Premium
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with US President Donald Trump during the 'Namaste Trump' event at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad (Photo: PTI)

  • Trump urged the government to begin a peace process with Pakistan, a country seen as vital to the US
  • 'US and India are firmly united in our ironclad resolve to defend our citizens from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism,' said Trump in Ahmedabad

New Delhi: US President Donald Trump on Monday hailed India’s rise as a prosperous and independent nation that stood as an example as he positioned the US as India’s premier defence partner to work towards a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Addressing a crowd at the Motera stadium in Ahmedabad , Trump also urged the government to begin a peace process with Pakistan, a country seen as vital to the US as it looks to sign a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan that would allow American troops to exit after 19 years.

Trump’s push was ignored by his host, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in his remarks spoke of the strengthening of the India-US partnership at the “Namaste Trump" event in Ahmedabad.

Trump arrived in Ahmedabad on Monday at the start of a three-city, 36-hour visit—he then visited the Taj Mahal in Agra before arriving in New Delhi.

“India’s rise... is all the more inspiring because you have done it as a democratic country, you have done it as a peaceful country, you have done it as a tolerant country and you have done it as a great and free country," Trump said to an audience that included Modi, US First Lady Melania Trump and members of the US delegation.

“There is all the difference in the world between a nation that seeks its power through coercion, intimidation and aggression and a nation that rises by setting its people free and unleashing them to chase their dreams and that is India," he said.

“It is your faith in the strength of a free society, your confidence in your own people, your trust in your own citizens, and your respect for the dignity of every person that makes the United States and India such a natural, beautiful, enduring friendship," he added.

Though he did not mention China by name, the allusion to India’s northern neighbour was clear. “President Trump has very perceptively articulated how India’s growth and development has taken place in a democratic setting, as opposed to other countries, which have done so in an authoritative system," said Gautam Bambawale, former Indian ambassador to China.

The rise of China is seen by the US and India as a common strategic challenge. While India has an unsettled border with China and views its ties with Pakistan with suspicion, Washington has come to see Beijing as a challenge given China’s military and technological advances. A case in point is the 5G technology developed by China’s Huawei that Washington has warned all its allies to reject. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is another such development that New Delhi and Washington see as a project that puts countries into a debt trap.

Ties between the world’s oldest and largest democracies have warmed in the past two decades, with Trump being the fifth US president to visit India since 2000. India’s trade with the US stands at $142 billion. Since 2008, India has bought more than $18 billion worth of US military hardware.

Trump said his aim of coming to India was “to expand our cherished partnership of incredible power and potential". “I am pleased to announce that, tomorrow (Tuesday), our representatives will sign deals to sell over $3 billion in the absolute finest, state-of-the-art military helicopters and other equipment to the Indian Armed Forces," he said, referring to two pacts—$2.6 billion worth of Seahawk anti-submarine warfare helicopters for the Indian Navy and an $800 million deal for the purchase of six Apache attack helicopters.

“I believe that the United States should be India’s premier defence partner, and that’s the way it’s working out. Together, we will defend our sovereignty, security, and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region for our children and for many, many generations to come," he said.

On terrorism, Trump said “the United States and India are also firmly united in our ironclad resolve to defend our citizens from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism", to loud applause. “For this reason, since taking office, my administration is working in a very positive way with Pakistan to crack down on the terrorist organizations and militants that operate on the Pakistani border," he said to cheers from the audience.

“Our relationship with Pakistan is a very good one. Thanks to these efforts, we are beginning to see signs of big progress with Pakistan. And we are hopeful for reduced tensions, greater stability and the future of harmony for all of the nations of South Asia."

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