‘Long live our friendship’: PM Modi stresses on India-US ties at Motera Stadium
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday hailed India’s ties with the US as he called President Donald Trump’s two-day visit to the country as “a very big opportunity.”
Trump landed in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to a spectacular welcome, at the start of a two-day trip.
Modi, who has built a personal rapport with Trump, pulled out the stops for Trump’s visit as he welcomed the US president with an embrace when he stepped off Air Force One, along with his wife, Melania Trump, at the airport.
“We are ready to come to India, we are on our way, we will be meeting everyone in a few hours,” Trump had tweeted in the Hindi before he landed. Modi responded with an old Indian saying as he tweeted: “Athithi Devo Bhava (the guest is God).”
Sharing the stage with Trump later at the ‘Namaste Trump’ event in Ahmedabad’s Motera Stadium, the Prime Minister said America is India’s largest trading partner.
“Our bilateral partnership will deepen, our strategic relationship will enhance. Long live our friendship. And therefore, I believe that President Trump coming to India at the beginning of this decade is a very big opportunity,” he said to a cheering crowd that packed into the stadium.
Watch: ‘Namaste Trump’ l ‘India & US no longer just another partnership’: PM Modi
Ahead of his visit, Donald Trump held out the possibility of the announcement of a “tremendous deal” on trade during his visit to India, but he also said the two sides may “slow it down” for now and do it after the November election in which he is seeking a second term.
Prospects of the two sides signing a limited trade deal during the February 24-25 visit have looked slim recent days after a top US trade negotiator cancelled an India visit to wrap up negotiations without ascribing reasons.
The United States is seeking access to Indian markets in dairy and poultry, removal of control over medical device prices in a limited trade deal and India has sought relief from tariffs on its steel and aluminium exports to the US and restoration of benefits under a zero-duty preferential trade programme.
Modi, however, stressed on the friendship between India and the US as he stressed on the future roles the countries will play.
“In the 21st century, new alignments, new competition, new challenges, and new opportunities are laying the foundation for change. The relationship and cooperation of India and America will have an important role in setting the direction of the 21st-century world,” the Prime Minister said.
He also pointed out that India conducts the largest number of war exercises with the US.
“We can make an effective contribution not only in the Indo-Pacific Region but in the peace, progress and security of the whole world,” he added.
Trump did say that the two countries will sign deals on Tuesday sell military helicopter worth $3 billion and that the US must become the premier defence partner of India.
As the US president described Modi as “a tough negotiator”, he said he was going to discuss economic ties with the Prime Minister.
“We will be making very, very major, among the biggest ever made, trade deals. We are in the early stages of discussion for an incredible trade agreement to reduce barriers of investment between the United States and India,” he said.
“And I am optimistic that working together, the Prime Minister and I can reach a fantastic deal that’s good and even great for both of our countries, except that he is a very tough negotiator.”
The buzz words ahead of the event seemed to be the friendship and rapport between the leaders of India and the US.
Trump is also more popular in India than in many countries around the world, with the Pew Research Center’s polls showing support for him has grown almost four-fold since 2016. The latest survey showed 56% of Indians have a positive view of him.
The ‘Namaste Trump’ event was on the lines of the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ programme addressed by Modi and Trump during the Prime Minister’s trip to Houston last September.
The next stop on the US president’s itinerary was Agra to see the Taj Mahal before he leaves for Delhi for a day of meetings and deals on Tuesday.