NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump will be accorded the biggest public reception given to any foreign leader in years during his visit to India beginning on Monday, officials say, one that could help paper over the two countries’ growing friction over trade.
Close political and security partners, India and the United States have hit each other with retaliatory tariffs. Over the past month they have engaged in intense negotiations to produce a mini trade deal, but officials say it remains elusive.
The two sides have been arguing over US demands for access to India’s huge poultry and dairy markets, Indian price controls on medical devices such as stents and stringent local data storage rules that US companies say will raise the costs of doing business.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has sought restoration of trade concessions that Trump withdrew in 2019 and greater access to US markets for its pharmaceutical and farm products. Above all, it says that Trump should not treat India on par with China, whose economy is five times larger.
At an event in Las Vegas overnight Trump gave mixed messages about prospects for a trade deal with Modi.
“We’re going to India and we may make a tremendous deal there. Maybe we’ll slow it down, we’ll do it after the election,” he said.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to gather in Modi’s political hometown of Ahmedabad to greet Trump for a road show leading to a rally in a cricket stadium with a capacity of over 100,000.
On stage, both leaders will address a bigger version of the “Howdy Modi” rally that they jointly appeared at in Houston to a jubilant crowd of 50,000 Indian Americans last year, where Trump likened Modi to Elvis Presley for his crowd-pulling power.
“From the moment of their arrival at the airport a little before noon on February 24, the delegates will be treated to a display of famed Indian hospitality and India’s Unity in Diversity,” said Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla.
He said there will be tens of thousands of ordinary citizens as well as artistes showcasing the performing arts from different states of the country as part of the India Road Show.
Trump, who will be accompanied by his wife, Melania, on the two-day trip, has been fascinated with the idea of going to India since his visit to Houston, aides said.