From Motera to Taj, Trump woos India on day one; all eyes on Tuesday talks

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi wave to the crowd at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad. AP
US President Donald Trump reached Delhi in the evening after wrapping the first leg of the two-day-long trip to India on Monday. Accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, the US President earlier reached Ahmedabad directly from Washington.

As the Air Force One touched down on the Ahmedabad tarmac, Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the US President in his traditional style with a display of Indian culture. The two world leaders then left for Motera Cricket Stadium to attend the “Namaste Trump” event, a reciprocal of the “Howdy Modi” organised in Houston, Texas in 2019. 

Heaping praises on PM, Trump while addressing the massive crowd gathered since 8 am, said Modi's rise from his humble background as a "chai-wallah" (tea-seller) underscored the "limitless promise of the great nation". Everybody loves him, Trump said of Modi adding that the prime minister is a very "tough" negotiator. "Prime Minister Modi, you are not just the pride of Gujarat. You are a living proof that with hard work and devotion Indians can accomplish anything, anything at all, anything they want," Trump said amid loud cheers from an estimated one lakh-strong audience at Motera stadium.

On his maiden visit to India as US president, Trump also invoked Swami Vivekananda, a revered spiritual leader who has often been described by Modi as an inspiration to him and touched on the reach of India's popular culture. “All over the planet people take great joy in 'bhangra' and watching bollywood films like DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) and Sholay,” he said while also mentioning cricketing greats Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli.

U.S. President Donald Trump is welcomed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he arrives at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad. Reuters

"India and the US are committed to fight terrorists and their ideology; that is why my government is working with Pakistan to crack down on terror groups," Trump said in the presence of his family --daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner-- and top brass of his administration. "The US will always be a faithful and loyal friend of India. Thank you for the spectacular welcome," he added. 

Ahead of reaching Motera, the prime minister accompanied the president and first lady to Sabarmati Ashram, where they tried their hands at spinning the 'charkha' (spinning wheel). "To my great friend Prime Minister Narendra Modi, thank you for this wonderful visit," Trump wrote in the Ashram visitors' book. The US President was briefed about Gandhiji and the importance of charkha as a symbol of self-reliance. 

U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi hug at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad. AP

Meanwhile, a marble replica of Mahatma Gandhi's "three wise monkeys" statue, a copy of his Talisman or a piece of wisdom as well as a special edition of his autobiography were among the items gifted to US President Donald Trump. The sculpture was a replica of the statue that was gifted to Gandhi by a Japanese monk way back in 1933, a trustee of the Sabarmati Ashram said.

Taj Mahal a ‘timeless testament’ 

After wrapping up events in Ahmedabad, the First Family reached Agra in the evening and visited the iconic Taj Mahal. The president hailed the 17th-century Mughal-era mausoleum as a "timeless testament" to the rich and diverse beauty of Indian culture. The American power couple spent almost an hour at the Taj Mahal, soaking in the beauty of the monument of love, and were briefed about the history and traditions associated with architectural marvel.

"The Taj Mahal inspires awe. A timeless testament to the rich and diverse beauty of Indian culture! Thank you India," Trump and Melania wrote on the visitor's book. 

US President and First Lady at the Taj Mahal. AP

He was accompanied by Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner to the monument. 

Agenda for day two in Delhi

US President and PM Modi on Tuesday will engage in extensive talks as a defence deal is in the offing. "We make the greatest weapons ever made airplanes, missiles, rockets, ships. We make the best. And we're dealing now with India. But this includes advanced air defence systems and armed and unarmed aerial vehicles," Trump said during the day. 

The deals mentioned by Trump will include the procurement of 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters by India from the US at a cost of $2.6 billion. Another contract to acquire six AH-64E Apache helicopters for $800 million from the US is also on the table. "I am pleased to announce that tomorrow our representatives will sign deals to sell over USD 3 billion in the absolute finest, state-of-the-art military helicopters and other equipment to the Indian armed forces," Trump said.

US President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, look at a Charkha at Sabrmati Ashram. AP

Tuesday's talks between Modi and Trump are likely to send across a clear message of growing congruence of interests between India and the US on major geopolitical developments in the region and beyond, particularly when China has been expanding its military and economic clout.

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