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Trump’s maiden visit heralds a new dawn for India-US relations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump during the 'Namaste Trump' event at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, Monday (Photo: PTI)Premium
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump during the 'Namaste Trump' event at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, Monday (Photo: PTI)

  • Trump pitches to widen scope of relations; Modi says this marks a new chapter for two nations
  • The visit comes against the backdrop of India seeking to bolster its strategic partnership with the US

Ahmedabad: Donald Trump played the statesman, politician and marketer to perfection at the packed Motera stadium on Monday.

With a growing US re-engagement with India, the visiting president offered a much bigger friendship umbrella to India—it ranged from pitching the US as the premier defence partner to collaborating with India on its ambitious space programme.

Extolling its democracy and exhorting India to occupy a larger space on the global stage, Trump also made a veiled reference to China and its strategy of coercion.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his part, said Trump’s maiden visit to India opened a new chapter in bilateral ties.

Modi spoke about the efforts of the Trump administration in bringing the two countries closer as he welcomed the president and First Lady Melania Trump before more than 100,000 people at what is billed the world’s largest cricket stadium for the “Namaste Trump" event.

“India-US relations are no longer just another partnership. It is a far greater and closer relationship," Modi said. “In the new decade of this 21st century, the new India is also bringing many opportunities for the Resurgent America."

From helping bring India out of nuclear isolation to calling out Pakistan for its role in espousing global terror, US policy towards the subcontinent has been consistent across Republican and Democratic administrations in recent years.

This visit comes against the backdrop of India seeking to strengthen its strategic partnership with the US, with discussions likely to span bilateral, regional and global issues such as trade, strategic topics, counterterrorism and the India-Pacific region.

The 45th and current president of the US was effusive in his praise for the Indian prime minister just months after the “Howdy, Modi!" event held in Texas. Taking the conversation forward ahead of his re-election bid in November, Trump called Modi a true friend and said, “America loves India, America respects India, and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people."

The speech was well-crafted, said experts.

“The US president struck the right chords with his fulsome praise for the event and for India," said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal.

“On trade, the president did not elaborate, except that the discussions were at a preliminary stage for a fantastic trade deal. It means the US pressure on India will continue and the demands on India may continue," Sibal added.

Making his re-election pitch, Trump said, “In America, we have come to know the splendour of Indian culture personally through the 4 million Indian Americans living in the United States as our wonderful friends, colleagues and neighbours."

“Indian Americans enrich every aspect of our national life. They are titans of business; the biggest, the best pioneers of science; masters of the art; and innovation of technology like few people have been able to see no matter where you go anywhere in this universe."

While Monday was India’s day to floor the Trump family with hospitality, Tuesday is expected to be a day of serious negotiations over a trade deal.

“We will be making very, very major—among the biggest ever made—trade deals," Trump said.

Saumya Tewari, Gireesh Chandra Prasad and Predika Khanna contributed to this story.

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