Indo-American relations have entered a new era as the US President Donald Trump and India’s Prime Minister have held extensive discussions and signed new deals – at least that’s what both the leaders had implied during their talks.
Trump, with his 36 hours of whirlwind flying to and fro, and spending an equal number of hours of stay in cordial and friendly India, of which over 22 hours of hectic and fruitful work and parlays he held with Modi, and they together have pushed the Indo-US relations to new heights. Trump and his entourage have been received an unforgettable reception in Ahmedabad and New Delhi with all the warmth.
Trump, his wife and First Lady Melania Trump, and their daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Corey Kushner, accompanied by a team of officials and a plane-load of journalists had the taste of Indian friendship, culture and hospitality during their two-day visit on February 24 and 25. Trump’s stand-alone India visit has been historic.
For the largest and oldest democracies respectively like India and the US, Trump’s India visit has been significant as the friendship between the two countries has been enhanced overwhelmingly multi-fold to the envy of many watchful nations of the world.
From the time Trump and his entourage reached the Ahmedabad international airport during the late morning of February 24 until their departure during the night of February 25, there was not a minute of respite, and all along they remained on their toes.
The tour in Ahmedabad included a visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram, “Namaste Trump” reception at the world largest Motera Stadium attended by a massive sea of humanity consisting of more than 1,25,000 people, addresses by Modi and Trump, and Trump’s team visit to the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra on the first day; and on the second day in New Delhi, a ceremonial guard of honor to Trump at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, a visit of Trump and Melania to Raj Ghat, Melania’s visit to a Sarvodaya Co-education Senior Secondary School in Moti Bagh, one-to-one official meetings of Trump and Modi, discussions on bilateral and international issues and signing of defense deals by Trump and Modi, and trade, business and investment meetings between the US and Indian business leaders, delivery of a joint statement by Trump and Modi, and their joint address to the press, at the Hyderabad House and finally a banquet reception hosted to Trump by India’s President Ram Nath Kovind, before Trump, his family, the visiting of dignitaries and their team departed for the US.
The highlight of Trump’s visit has been the exchange and expression of strong and cordial friendship and a decision to formulate a comprehensive global strategic partnership by the two countries, security and defense cooperation, joint fight against Islamic radical terrorism, arresting incursions in the Indo-Pacific region, and cooperation over issues like energy – renewable as well as natural, technology, trade and tariff. As part of the defense cooperation, the US and India signed a $3-billion deal and supply of military hardware including world’s powerful and finest Apache and MH-60 Romeo helicopters.
Trump also spoke about growing defense ties between both the countries and the joint military exercises and sale of American-made sophisticated weapons to India. The two countries agreed to enter into a deal in the trade sector as well, and India would source $9-billion worth of crude oil from the US to reduce trade imbalance. They would set up working groups to curb trafficking of narcotics and strengthen homeland security.
As parts of India’s capital city were wrecked by violence, and at the end of their bilateral talks the two leaders made a joint statement and addressed a press conference. In their addresses, the two leaders were quite clear not to make any comment or discuss India’s controversial issues like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) or religious freedom. On CAA, Trump said: “I want to leave that to India, hopefully it will make the right decision for the country.”
Trump refused to be drawn into any discussion on religious freedom, expressing his confidence in Modi, who could deal with it appropriately. The joint statement, referring to Pakistan’s role as a sponsor of terrorism, said that Modi and Trump have denounced any use of terrorist proxies and strongly condemned cross-border terrorism in all its forms. The statement also asked Pakistan to ensure no territory under its control was used to launch terrorist attacks.
At the same time on a guarded note earlier, during his address at the “Namaste Trump” event in Ahmedabad Trump said: “My administration is working with Pakistan in positive way to crack down on radical Islamic terrorism.” Describing India as a magnificent country and Modi as “my great friend,” and “tough negotiator,” Trump said that the two countries would work on a balanced trade, durable defense and fight against terrorism. “India and the US are committed to defend our people from radical Islamic Terrorism,” he added.
Trump said that his country would always be faithful and loyal to India and both the countries shared a common thread of strong democratic values and an enduring friendship. Both the countries were committed to work towards strengthening world peace.
Impressed by India’s hospitality, diversity, progress and achievements in various fields, Trump said that he would remember “this remarkable hospitality.” India was known for its diverse culture – its Bhangra, its Bollywood and its Cricket. He praised Bollywood for producing 2,000 films annually and notably popular films like “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ)” and “Sholay.” With regard to the Cricket, Trump made a special reference to players like Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli. Trump also remembered Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda, who made a historic speech at the World Parliament of religions in Chicago. Expressing his profound gratitude to an “exceptional leader” like Modi, Trump said Modi was a great champion of India, a man who worked day and night for his country and a man who was his true friend.
Trump said Modi’s life underscored the limitless promise of India. Modi as a young man inherited his father’s profession, worked as a chaiwallah and had risen to the present position of the Prime Minister of this great nation. “The Prime Minister’s is an incredible story of an incredible rise. This entire nation is doing so well. We are very, very proud of India. The story of Indian nation is a story of astounding progress, a miracle of democracy, extraordinary diversity and above all, a strong noble people,” Trump added.
In reply, Modi said: “President Trump thinks big, and the world is aware of his efforts to realize the American dream. I remember when I met him for the first time in Washington he told me that India has a true friend in the White House.”
Appreciating Melania’s role as the First Lady, Modi said: “Melania, your presence here is an honor for us. The work you did for a healthy and happy America is yielding its result. The work you did for children and society is commendable. Your slogan is ‘Be Best’ — you may have noticed that today, most of the people, who have come here have, expressed the same sentiment.”
In the same tone Modi also addressed Ivanka and said: “You had told me two years ago that you wanted to return to India. I am happy that you are again amongst us today and I welcome you.” Extending warm welcome to Trump and his entourage, Modi said: This is Gujarat, but the spirit of the entire country is here to welcome you. This enthusiasm, this thunderous noise, this entire environment from the airport to the stadium displays the diversity of India. And amid all this is the presence of President Trump, First Lady Melania, Ivanka and Jared. President Trump’s arrival here with his family gives a new meaning to India-US relations, which has the fragrance of closeness of family relations.”
Trump and Modi not only exchanged pleasantries but also to symbolize their cordial friendship, they shared their customary tight hugs several times in the four hours of their stay in Ahmedabad. Before reaching the stadium for “Namaste Trump,” they were greeted with the waving of the Indian and American flags by thousands of people lined up on either side of 22-kilometer-long highway, and as a part of the roadshow, troupes showcased cultural items. On their way in the first leg of the tour, they stopped at the Sabarmati Ashram and paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi. Trump garlanded a portrait of Gandhi with a traditional khadi garland, showed keen interest in the use of a spinning wheel and tried his hand to spin a cotton thread. He was also shown Gandhi’s symbolic idols of three monkeys. In the visitors’ book Trump and Melania noted: “To my great friend Prime Minister Modi, Thank you for this wonderful visit.”
In Agra, the Trump-Melania couple, and the Jared-Ivanka couple separately were taken in an hour-long guided tours of the famous Taj Mahal, a great symbol of love. They had a spectacular sight of Taj during the sunset. In appreciation of the beauty of Taj Mahal, Trump wrote in the visitors’ book: “The Taj Mahal inspires awe, a timeless testament to the real and diverse beauty of Indian culture. Thank you India.”
Earlier, at the Agra international airport, Trump and entourage were given a warm welcome by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
In New Delhi next day, a ceremonial guard of honor was extended to Trump by India’s President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. On way to the Hyderabad House, Trump and Melania visited Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Raj Ghat, where they laid a flora wreath on Gandhi Samadhi and planted a sapling there. While Trump was busy with official business at Hyderabad House, Melania visited a government-run Sarvodaya Co-education Senior Secondary School in Moti Bagh, where she interacted with the children and leant about their happy hour class.
The US Presidential tour ended with a banquet dinner hosted by the Indian President, where several dignitaries including diplomats and Chief Ministers were invited.
– Contributed by Mr. J.V. Laskshmana Rao, a former National News Coordinator of Express News Service, New Delhi, and former Chief Editor of US-based India Tribune. He frequently travels between India and the US.
Picture Credits: Reuters