'See you soon in Ahmedabad,' tweets Narendra Modi ahead of Donald Trump's visit
Taking to Twitter on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India looks forward to welcoming the US President.
United States President Donald Trump will begin his maiden official two-day state visit to India on Monday, becoming the seventh American President to visit the country. Trump will be accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump and a twelve-member delegation comprising US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette among others. Taking to Twitter on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India looks forward to welcoming the US President and that it is an honour that "he will be with us tomorrow, starting with the historic programme in Ahmedabad!"
"Look so forward to being with my great friends in INDIA!" Trump had tweeted on Sunday, quoting a morphed video showing him as the protagonist of hit Bollywood film 'Bahubali'. The visiting dignitary will reach Ahmedabad around Monday noon and after a visit to Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram will address a mammoth crowd of more than 100,000 people at an event titled 'Namaste Trump' at the Motera Stadium in the city. The event will be based on the lines of 'Howdy Modi' function that was addressed by the US President and Prime Minister Modi in Houston in September, last year.
Security has been tightened across Ahmedabad ahead of Trump's visit. "A lot of people are expected to line the roads to welcome President Donald Trump. Security has been tightened not only in the stadium but also along the entire route from where the convoy of President Trump and Narendra Modi is scheduled to pass," said Crime Branch Special Commissioner of Police Ajay Tomar.
From Ahmedabad, the US President and the First Lady will make a brief stop at the Agra where they will visit the Taj Mahal, before arriving at the national capital for the main leg of the 36-hour long trip. On the morning of February 25, the US President will first receive a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhawan as per protocol. From there, he will go to Rajghat to pay homage at the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi.
This will be followed by both, restricted, and delegation-level talks between Trump and Modi at the Hyderabad House in the national capital. The other nine members of the delegation companying Trump are: His daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump, son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller, White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino, First Lady Melania Trump's chief of staff Lindsay Reynolds, White House advisor Robert Blair and White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.
The participants at the bilateral meetings will be: Adam S Boehler, the chief executive of the US International Development Finance Corporation, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, Lisa Curtis, the senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, and Kash Patel, a former top National Security Council official.
After official meetings, Trump and his wife will have a lavish lunch hosted by Prime Minister Modi. From there, the US President will reach the ITC Maurya Hotel where External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu are expected to call on him. Trump will leave for the United States by his special flight on the night of February 25.
Among the key elements of the visit would be the trade talks between the United States and India. While answering a question on India-US Trade deal during the weekly press briefing on Thursday, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said that New Delhi has been engaging with Washington for quite some time, and hopes to reach an understanding with an outcome that strikes the right balance for both sides. "We do not like to rush into a deal as issues involved are complicated. We do not want to create an artificial deadline. For us, the interest of people are paramount," Kumar had said.
Kumar's remarks had come after Trump had said that India has not treated his country very well on the trade front and that a "very big" bilateral trade deal with New Delhi may not be signed before US Presidential election later this year. "We can have a trade deal with India, but I am really saving the big deal for later, maybe before elections. But we will have a very big deal with India," Trump said while talking to reporters.
Tensions on the trade front between the two countries had emerged in June, last year, after Trump revoked preferential trade privileges, in response to which India imposed tariffs on 28 US products, including almonds and apples. Despite several meetings held over the past 18 months in Washington DC, New Delhi, and New York, trade negotiators of the two countries are yet to finalise on a deal.
Responding to a question on the issue, a senior Trump Administration official last week said that India's protectionist policy has remained a concern for the United States with respect to the trade deal between the two countries, and that the 'Make in India' campaign makes the discussion on trade difficult.
On being asked about the restoration of India's participation in the Generalized System of Preferences, the official said, "The concerns that led to the revocation, suspension of India's GSP access remains a concern for us. And to remind those on the call it was really the failure of the Indian government to provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors."
The MEA spokesperson had informed that New Delhi and Washington are eyeing around five Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) in the areas of intellectual property, trade facilitation, and homeland security, among others. "We are also looking at a joint statement which will basically capture the essence of the partnership between the two countries. I will not go into the details of the MoUs, I will see if I can, maybe, give you some topics on which MoUs are expected, we are looking at MoUs in the areas of intellectual property for example, in the area of trade facilitation, in the area of homeland security. These are works in progress and we will have a much clearer picture closer to the date," Kumar had said.
Regarding the H1B visa issue, he had said, "We have remained engaged with administration and US Congress on the movement of Indian professionals. The matter is very important to us. We do not expect that the movement of Indian professionals is part of the agenda that could come up for discussions." Responding to a question on the areas of focus, a senior Trump Administration official had said that the visit would focus on enhancing economic, energy, defence and security cooperation between the two countries.
"The U.S. wants an India that is strong, with a capable military that supports peace, stability, and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region. Indeed, India is a pillar of our Indo-Pacific strategy, and we continue to work together to promote this vision of a free and open an international system based on market economics, good governance, freedom of the seas and skies, and respect for sovereignty," the official said.
"And our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific really goes to the heart of what binds our two countries together, and this is our shared democratic systems that place a premium on citizen-centric governments. In fact, India has a strong foundation of democracy, going back to the early days, right after independence. India is a country rich in religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. In fact, it's the birthplace of four major world religions," the official added.
A day prior to Kumar's briefing on the areas of focus, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had said that the two counties will hold talks in areas of defence, counter-terrorism, people to people contact, energy and regional issues, adding that it is an opportunity for both the countries to deepen their strategic partnership and a forward-looking relationship.
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