By J.V. Lakshmana Rao
All preparations are at top gear as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is preparing to roll out a red carpet to welcome his close ally US President Donald Trump on a two-day maiden visit to India that begins on February 24. New Delhi, Agra and Ahmedabad have been placed under high security alert.
For Trump the India visit is significant as it is happening during the year of the Presidential elections as he is in the thick of his campaign seeking another term. The visit also comes as soon as he has triumphantly come out of his vexed impeachment trial.
Trump, who had a significant exposure in his own country along with Modi during the “Howdy Modi” gathering as 50,000-strong Indian-Americans and others witnessed the event with a lot of fanfare when he and Modi, spoke cordially, hugged each other warmly and walked hand-in-hand at the extravaganza in the NRG Stadium in Houston, TX, about five months ago during September last year.
The present Trump’s visit to India is in response to an invitation extended to him by Modi. Besides New Delhi and Agra, Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are expected on February 24 to visit Ahmedabad, the capital city of Modi’s home state. Trump is expected to witness a similar warmth and cordiality to be extended to them by seven million Indians who will be lined up along the 22-kilometer-long highway from Ahmedabad airport to the world’s biggest Motera Stadium (Sardar Patel Stadium), with a capacity of 1.2 million audience. Trump will be inaugurating the renovated stadium.
The roadshow will have decorated floats and cultural events presentation by troupes representing the 29 states of India. As many as 10,000 Indian-Americans, many of them are of Gujarati origin are visiting Ahmedabad to witness the event.
Trump is also scheduled to visit the famous Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi in the current year of his 150 birth anniversary.
Initially India and the US are expected to sign several trade agreements, but because of the Presidential election scheduled for November in the US, Trump has announced that the US may not sign any major trade deals with India during the present visit but such deals will hopefully be signed later. On the eve of his visit to India, the US is stated to have agreed to supply highly sophisticated multi-functional helicopters for the Indian defense.
Although the Taj Mahal is being spruced up, indications are that Trump may not visit it because of certain security and environmental restrictions for the fossil fuel driven vehicles around the monument. However the First Lady is expected to visit Taj Mahal on February 25. The First Lady is also expected to visit a select government school in New Delhi to study the Indian early education system.
A ceremonial state reception will be extend to the US President by the Indian President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on February 25, followed by official talks to be held at the Hyderabad House between Trump and Modi, who are expected to discuss several bilateral and international issues while trade delegations of the US and India would be holding talks.
A ceremonial banquet would be hosted to Trump by Kovind in the evening. It is not yet known if Trump would address a public meeting or a joint session of Indian Parliament in New Delhi.
In New Delhi, Trump is expected to attend a round-table meeting with CEOs at the US Embassy.
To shield a view of slum area, the municipal administration in Ahmedabad has built a half-kilometer-long wall along the road from the airport to Indira Bridge. The move evoked criticism, with the opposition Congress Party saying the government was trying to keep the slums out of Trump’s sight. The Ahmedabad municipal corporation has said this slum locality is part of Sardarnagar Township and the civic body has been trying to make the lives of residents there better.
By J.V. Lakshmana Rao