US President Donald Trump will be on his first visit to India on February 24-25 at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He will begin his trip from Ahmedabad where a major public event awaits him – ‘KemCho Modi’ – followed by bilateral talks in New Delhi.
While the substance of the strategic partnership will be discussed in New Delhi, the two leaders are expected to jointly address a massive public rally at the newly built Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad. Trump will look at this as a political opportunity to garner support from the Indian-Americans back home.
Speaking to reporters at the Oval Office on Tuesday, President Trump said, “He (Narendra Modi) said we will have millions and millions of people. My only problem is that last night we probably had 40 or 50,000 people… I’m not going to feel so good… There will be five to seven million people just from the airport to the new stadium (in Ahmedabad).”
“And you know (it) is the largest stadium in the world. He’s (Modi) building it now. It’s almost complete,” he added.
The two sides have a lot of issues to work out, particularly on the trade front but addressing a rally in India is being seen as the “political imperative” which compelled the US President to come to India ahead of the Presidential election scheduled for the end of this year.
“This is more of a political visit for President Trump given that he has looked at the ‘Howdy Modi’ event and he is now very impressed by PM Modi’s ability to deliver him certain voters that are not his traditional voters. He is not someone who would come unless there is an imperative here which he can use back home and it is the political imperative which compels him to come to India”, said Harsh Pant, Director, Observer Research Foundation.
Former Indian Ambassador to the US, Arun Kumar Singh, told India Today, “In international relations, optics have their own particular role and impact. The fact of US President doing a stand alone visit to India, being welcomed in a grand way etc is important in itself. Beyond that, focus is bound to be on Defense cooperation, trade and economic relations, global challenges such as terrorism, convergence in the Indo-Pacific and dealing with the consequences of China’s rise and growing international footprint.”
Even as the US Trade Representative is in India to negotiate the trade deal, sources say a fullfledged agreement seems unlikely during the President’s visit. Both sides would be looking at an announcement on the deliverables.