Tribune News Service
Ahmedabad, February 24
A visibly overwhelmed US President Donald Trump on Monday said “from this day on India will hold a very special place in our hearts” as he faced a wildly cheering, packed-to-the-rafters crowd of over one lakh at the “Namaste Trump” rally at the Motera cricket stadium here while millions watched the proceedings live on TV.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose address preceded Trump’s speech, also said the visit will start a new chapter in India-US ties that will usher shared prosperity to both nations.
“With this visit, India-US relations are no longer just another partnership. It is a far greater closer relationship,” he declared.
Trump delivered his customary platitudes, terming the pageantry as a “stunning display” of Indian culture and appreciating the “spectacular welcome” to a “magnificent country” whose hospitality his family will “remember forever”.
Turning to PM Modi, Trump borrowed from daughter Ivanka’s speech during her Hyderabad visit two years back, to recall how he started as a “chai wallah’’ to evolve into a tough negotiator for his country’s interests as prime minister.
But Trump also underlined what makes India standout among a group of large and powerful nations. “Here is all the difference between a nation that coerces and intimidates its people and one that rises by letting its people free to chase their dreams that is India,” he said in comments that went unappreciated as compared to his account about the defeat of the ISIS or the resolve to defeat Islamic radicalism.
Before coming to the business end of his trip — more defence deals and a mega trade deal — Trump reiterated this point further down his speech delivered under a late winter sun that had become uncomfortable.
“India’s rise as a prosperous and independent nation is an example to every nation in the world and one of the most outstanding achievements of our century. It’s all the more inspiring because you’ve done it as a democratic country, a peaceful country.”
While both the leaders spoke on diversity and the roadshow from Ahmedabad airport to Motera Stadium was meant to showcase the different colours of India, it was Trump alone who twice mentioned the Muslims along with other communities who have lent vibrancy to Indian culture.
It was Trump again who mentioned Delhi’s Jama Masjid along with Golden Temple as some of the symbols of India’s multiplicity of cultures.
Trump also touched on the other landmarks during his visit — the stadium named after Sardar Patel, the Gandhi ashram in Sabarmati and his next stopover at the Taj Mahal while Modi touched on the Sardar Patel statue and spoke generally of India’s medley of cultures.
Trump moved on to the real purpose of the visit – making India the premier defence partner and inking a mega trade deal—while expressing satisfaction that India has placed defence orders worth over $ 3 billion on US arms manufacturers.
Clearly delineating the American expectation from India, he said as both sides continue to build defence cooperation, US looked forward to selling some of the best military equipment the world has ever made.
“Missiles, rockets or ships, we make the best. I believe US should be India’s premier defence partner. That’s how it is working out. That’s why I have come to India to expand the partnership.”
Next on the Indian order book are advanced air defence systems and armed and unarmed aerial vehicles.
The other prime factor for his 8,000 mile roundtrip was to sell more American goods to the largest middle class in the world.
“We will be making the biggest-ever trade deal… a fantastic deal that is good and great for our countries except that he’s [Modi] is a very tough negotiator.’’
The biggest cheer went up when Trump touched on Pakistan and terrorism. Declaring that the US and India are on the same page in fighting terrorism and its ideology, Trump assured that his government was working with Pakistan to crackdown on terror organisations and militants operating from the Pakistan border.
PM Modi then delivered another address, translating some of what Trump had said and also giving an overview of India’s progress before drums began rolling.
But unlike at ‘Howdy Modi’ rally in Houston, the crowd at ‘Namaste Trump’ had been told to turn up six hours before the stadium event began and seemed divided on staying on.
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