It’s official: Donald Trump to start India visit Feb 24, with First lady Melania
The White House said President Trump and the first lady will travel to New Delhi and Ahmedabad.Updated: Feb 11, 2020 22:24 IST
US President Donald Trump will reach India February 24 for a two-day visit accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, the White House spokesperson said in a statement Monday. There was no word if a trade deal under discussion now will be ready for announcement during the visit.
The final details of the visit appear to have been wrapped up in a phone call, which the White House said, took place between President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi past weekend. The two leaders agreed on the call, according to the statement, the “trip will further strengthen the United States-India strategic partnership and highlight the strong and enduring bonds between the American and Indian people”.
The White House said President Trump and the first lady will travel to New Delhi and Ahmedabad. Though it did not specify the order in which the visits will take place, people familiar with the planning of the visit said they will start the visit in Ahmedabad on February 24 and reach New Delhi the same night for the second leg of the visit, which takes place on February 25. Though there was no mention of Agra, the American president, who dislikes spending nights away from home, and his wife will stop by for a few hours to visit the Taj Mahal on their way home.
There was also no reference in the statement to a public rally that Trump and Modi were supposed to have had addressed in Ahmedabad, mirroring the Howdy Modi event in Houston, Texas the two leaders had jointly attended in September 2019. The White House only said about the Ahmedabad visit that the city “is in Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat and played such an important role in Mahatma Gandhi’s life and leadership of the Indian independence movement”.
A public reception appears to be on the president’s itinerary for Ahmedabad, though. The shape or size — a Howdy Modi-style event or not — is to be determined over the next few days, according to the people cited earlier. Details will be hard to come by for security reasons though, they cautioned, adding, advance teams from the US are on ground already.
The visit, which was first reported by Hindustan Times in January, will be the first by President Trump to India and will cap efforts that started with India inviting the US president to attend the 2018 Republic Day parade as chief guest. The White House had begged off then citing scheduling issues.
No details were available yet of officials who will accompany the president and the first lady and their agenda. There was no word in the statement, for instance, on one of the most anticipated parts of the visit: a trade deal ending some, and not all, of the outstanding differences bedeviling relations, such as Indian demand for the restoration of eligibility for a preferential duty-free trade regime withdrawn in the summer of 2019, and US push for more market access for its manufacturers of medical devices and dairy producers.
Talks are under way and the two sides have “ironed out” most of their outstanding differences, according to the people cite earlier, and a deal may be ready for announcement during the visit.
Some defence deals are also expected to be announced such as Indian request from more Apache helicopters and P8 maritime surveillance aircraft, together worth an estimated $3 billion.
The Trump Organization, the family business the president has vowed to separate from the White House, has its largest overseas operations in India, according to The Washington Post. The Trump Organization has announced that it will be not expand overseas during the president’s tenure to avoid conflicts of interest.
Earlier US presidential visits:
January, 2015: President Barack Obama became the first US president to visit India twice while still in office, and the first US president to attend the January 26 Republic Day parade as chief guest. He had chewed a Nicorette gum probably the entire time, as many may remember, to curb his urge to smoke.
November, 2010: President Obama travelled to India first with First Lady Michelle Obama fresh from a “shellacking” in a mid-term election in which his party lost control of the House of Representatives. He addressed parliament in New Delhi and got pulled to the dance floor at an event with the first lady in Mumbai.
March, 2006: President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a nuclear deal that ended India’s nuclear isolation, enabled it to acquire technology and material for civilian nuclear energy generation while retaining its nuclear weapons out of public sight and inspection.
March 2000: But the foundation of that deal may have been laid six years before when President Bill Clinton visited India, ending a chill in relations — accompanied by US sanctions — that had set in in the aftermath of the Pokhran II nuclear tests conducted by the Vajpayee government in 1998.
January, 1978: President Jimmy Carter visited New Delhi, where he met President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy and Prime Minister Morarji Desai and addressed Parliament. He also visited a small town outside Gurgaon called Daulatpur Nasirabad, which has since been named Carterpuri.
July 1969: President Richard Nixon and met acting Mohammad President Hidayatullah. He would meet Prime Minister Indira Gandhi a more than a year later in 1971 in Washington DC. They went on to share the most acrimonious relationship yet between leaders of the two countries. Nixon had used insulting language for Gandhi in private conversations with this secretary of state Henry Kissinger, which were caught on Oval Office recordings the president had kept and that led eventually to his exit during the Watergate investigations.
December 1959: Dwight Eisenhower became the first US president to visit India. Met President Rajendra Prasad and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and addressed a joint sitting of parliament. He also visited Agra.