India-US to sign mega defence agreements during Trump’s visit, trade deal not on cards

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An elderly man sits below a billboard depicting US President Donald Trump with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

Even though the much-anticipated trade deal between India and the US is not on the cards during President Donald Trump’s visit, New Delhi is pulling out all the stops to make the US leader’s two-day maiden trip to India on February 24-25 a truly memorable event.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Thursday said this would be the first stand-alone visit by a US President to India and would have three legs – Ahmedabad, Agra, and New Delhi.

 

“We expect several senior members of the US Cabinet to accompany the president,” he said, adding that this would be Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fifth time meeting Trump in the past five months.

“Relationship with the US has evolved into one of our most consequential relationships today. It is a strategic partnership based on shared values and geared towards the 21st century,” Shringla said.

The two sides would hold talks on defence, counter-terrorism, people-to-people contacts, energy and regional issues. Sources said the trade deal would not be inked during the trip as the two countries did not want to rush into it.

“The trade deal is certainly not stuck but we don’t want to rush into it. Trade issues are complicated. We wish to have a win-win deal for both sides,” Shringla added.

The Minister of Commerce and his US counterpart have decided to engage in further talks.

Sources, however, confirmed that certain defence deals would be signed during Trump’s visit. Talks on defence pacts were in an advanced stage between the two sides.

 

Asked if Kashmir could be raised during Trump’s visit, sources said: “We have come a long way. There is a great amount of recognition on that”.

The issue was not a major factor in Indo-US ties though some would keep raising it, they added.

It has been learnt that Modi will personally receive Trump and First Lady Melania when ‘Air Force One’ touches down in Ahmedabad on February 24 around noon (0630 GMT).

From the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, the two leaders will hold a 22km road show, with people lined up both sides of the streets of Ahmedabad to welcome the US president.

The road show will culminate at the grand Motera Stadium, the world’s largest Cricket Stadium, with a stopover at Sabarmati Ashram, also known as Gandhi Ashram, where the leaders will spend about 15 minutes.

At the Motera Stadium, Trump will speak at the “Namaste Trump” event with close to 125,000 people in attendance.

There will also be cultural performances for the dignitaries. Bollywood celebrities are also expected to attend the event.

“The Ahmedabad event will have few parallels. It will be similar to the ‘Howdy Modi’ event held in Houston in September last year,” sources said.

Modi will host lunch for the US leader and the other dignitaries. The US president and the First Lady will then depart for Agra at around 4pm. After spending about 30-45 minutes touring the monument, they will depart for New Delhi.

On February 25, official engagements will begin with a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan at 10:00am. The couple will be welcomed by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and Modi. Trump will inspect the Guard of Honour after which he will be introduced to the Indian delegation.

Around noon, Trump will go into official talks with Modi at the Hyderabad House. They will have a one-on-one meeting, followed by delegation-level talks. The talks will end with a joint press statement by the two sides.

At around 3pm, Trump and his delegation will move to the US Embassy for a CEOs’ round-table with business honchos from both countries, aimed at increasing economic cooperation.

Soon after the state banquet, the US delegation will leave for the airport and depart from New Delhi.

THE STATESMAN (INDIA)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK