Mega rally as Trump begins first official India visit - GulfToday

Trump tosses flower petals on Gandhi memorial


Melania Trump is welcomed by children at a school in New Delhi. Reuters

Resmi Sivaram, Correspondent

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump tossed colourful flower petals on a memorial to Mohandas Gandhi on Tuesday in New Delhi during a wreath laying ceremony.

The two scooped handfuls of the petals – Trump with gusto – their shoes off in a sign of respect. The memorial is at Raj Ghat where the famed independence leader was cremated after his assassination in 1948.

Trump also signed a guestbook and was presented with a bust of Gandhi as Indian music played on a loudspeaker.

They ended the visit planting a tree at the site.

Trump kicked off his second day on the subcontinent with an elaborate outdoor welcome ceremony in front of the grand Rashtrapati Bhavan Presidential Palace in New Delhi.


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Donald Trump and Melania Trump attend a wreath laying ceremony at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial. Reuters

Cannons fired as the president's armored car, nicknamed "The Beast," rolled through the palace gates accompanied by a parade of red-uniformed guards on horseback. The ceremony included hundreds of military officials, marching with instruments and swords, as well as an official greeting by India's president and its prime minister, Narendra Modi.

Trump and Modi are expected to talk trade and announce an arms deal on Tuesday as part of a jam-packed day in the Indian capital that will include a joint statement with Modi, meetings with business leaders and embassy officials, a solo news conference and an opulent state dinner before the president heads back to Washington.

But Trump has made clear that little progress is expected on the trade front, despite rising tensions between the countries after the Trump administration imposed tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium exports. India responded with higher penalties on US agricultural goods and restrictions on medical devices, prompting the US to strip the south Asian nation of its decades-old trade preferences.

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Donald Trump and Melania Trump spray flower petals during a wreath laying ceremony at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial.

Trump told reporters Monday that he's in "no rush” for a trade agreement with India.

Trade tensions have grown between the world's two biggest democracies as Trump's "America First" drive collides with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India" mantra.

While sharing concerns about China and deepening defence ties, India has bristled at Trump's offer to mediate over the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan, and at unease in Washington over a citizenship law criticised as anti-Muslim.

The billionaire and the Indian Prime Minister were due to address a huge rally of around 100,000 people at the world's biggest cricket stadium in Modi's home state before Trump and First Lady Melania fly to the Taj Mahal to watch sunset.

Excited crowds began queueing at 4am to get into the brand new stadium for the "Namaste Trump" rally, payback for a "Howdy Modi" event in Houston last year in front of cheering Indian-Americans where Trump likened Modi to Elvis Presley.

Donald Trump and Melania Trump prepare to board Air Force One in Maryland. Reuters

"We hope the US liberalises its visa regime for skilled workers. They need it and India has too many young skilled and talented people," said student Maunas Shastri. 

India’s main opposition Congress party on Sunday raised important questions on Indo-US relations, a day ahead of the scheduled visit of US President Donald Trump.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala brought up a number of “relevant questions on national interest” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

These included H-1B visas, Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) scheme as well as the agreement between the United States and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“Trump Govt’s restrictive immigration policies have hit H-1B visas. Indians get 70% of 85000 H-1B Visas Now, Rejection Rate for India has increased from 6% in 2015 to 24% in 2019, esp. for IT professionals (sic),” Surjewala tweeted.


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“Post 10 million ppl gala event,Will PM Modi ask for easing H-1B visas? (sic)” he asked.

“US prepares to sign deal with Taliban on Feb.29. What about India’s red lines! Have we forgotten IC814hijacking & release of terrorist Masood Azhar in Kandhar,who’s JeM then attacked Parliament & Pulwama? (sic)” Surjewala asked.

“As gala bash unfolds,Will Modiji raise our National Security concerns? (sic)” he added.

Trump-India-750 Workers wash a road near Kheria Airport in Agra. AFP

“Post ‘Howdy Modi’ & ‘Namaste Trump’ gala events, Will PM ensure restoration of GSP status?” he questioned.

India and the US are expected to finalise at least five memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on issues ranging from trade facilitation to homeland security during Trump’s visit during February 24-25 alongside some defence deals.

The two sides are also looking at the trip to strengthen the bilateral strategic partnership and ramp up cooperation in counter-terrorism, defence, security, trade and energy despite their inability to finalise a limited trade package before the stand-alone visit.

India-Trump-750 A road is fumigated ahead of the visit of Donald Trump in Ahmedabad. Reuters

“Uptill 2018, India imported 250Cr tonne Crude Oil/month from Iran on ₹payment, 90 days credit & doorstep delivery Modi govt stopped buying cheaper Iran oil as per US sanctions that raised oil prices in India (sic),” the Congress leader tweeted.

“As fest continues in AMD, Will Modiji secure cheaper oil for India?” he questioned.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury likened Donald Trump to “Mogambo,” a villain played by late actor Amrish Puri in the Bollywood film “Mr India,” hitting out at the central government for spending crores of rupees to welcome him.

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