NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India and the United States were making progress on trade, energy and military deals, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday as he held talks with Indian leaders after a rousing reception on his first official visit to the country.
More than 100,000 people filled into a cricket stadium in the western city of Ahmedabad on Monday for a “Namaste Trump” rally that Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid out in his home state, the biggest reception to a foreign leader in years.
On Tuesday, Trump sat down for one-on-one talks with Modi followed by delegation-level meetings to try and move forward on issues that have divided them, mainly a festering trade dispute.
“I look forward to you explaining to the media later on the progress we’ve made on trade,” Trump said, sitting alongside Modi. The two countries have been trying to close differences over farm goods, medical devices, digital trade and proposed new tariffs.
Trump also said he said he looked forward to Modi speaking more “about the progress we’ve made on fighter jets…and energy.”
The two countries are expected to announce military helicopter deals worth $3 billion as India increasingly turns to the United States for modernizing its military from traditional supplier, Russia.
Modi is pulling all the stops for Trump’s visit seen as a deepening of ties between the world’s biggest democracies that are trying to counter the economic and military weight of China in Asia.
Trump described Monday’s rally in Ahmedabad and again praised Modi and spoke of the size of the crowd, claiming there were “thousands of people outside trying to get in..
“I would even imagine they were there more for you than for me, I would hope so,” he told Modi. “The people love you…every time I mentioned your name, they would cheer.”
In New Delhi, Trump was given a formal state welcome on Tuesday at the redstone presidential palace with a 21-cannon gun salute and a red coated honor guard on horseback on a smoggy day.
HUG GETS TIGHTER
India is one of the few big countries in the world where Trump’s personal approval rating is above 50% and Trump’s trip has got wall-to-wall coverage with commentators saying he had hit all the right notes on his first official visit to the world’s biggest democracy.
They were also effusive in their praise for Modi for pulling off a spectacular reception for Trump.
“Modi-Trump hug gets tighter,” ran a headline in the Times of India.
But in a sign of the underlying political tensions in India, violent protests broke out in Delhi on Monday over a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims and is a further attempt to undermine the secular foundations of India’s democracy. They say the law is part of a pattern of divisiveness being followed by Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
At least 7 people were killed and about 150 injured in the clashes that took place in another part of the capital, away from the center of the city where Modi is hosting Trump.
In his speech on Monday, Trump extolled India’s rise as a stable and prosperous democracy as one of the achievements of the century. “You have done it as a tolerant country. And you have done it as a great, free country,” he said.
Trump planned to raise the issue of religious freedoms in India with Modi, an administration official said last week.
Delhi has also been struggling with high air pollution and on Tuesday the air quality was moderately poor at 193 on a government index that measures pollution up to a scale of 500. The WHO considers anything above 60 as unhealthy.
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