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.
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.
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.
"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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
The elite crowd at the event will also be treated to such eternal favourites as Rod Stewart’s ‘Have I told you lately that I love you,’ Elvis Presley’s ‘I can’t help falling in love with you,’ The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘We are the World’.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday met leaders of political parties in Parliament to discuss his suggestion of holding Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections together. The Congress and its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Trinamool Congress, the DMK and Leftist parties stayed away.
"New India," Gandhi tweeted in a mocking vein, attaching two photographs of army personnel performing Yoga along with the dog squad on the occasion of International Day of Yoga.
'The UAE has decided to renew, from today and for a renewable period of two weeks, the suspension of entry of all foreign nationals holding valid UAE residence visa, in a bid to contain the spread the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure their safety.
The ministry also announced that 35 cases fully recovered from the virus, after receiving treatment, bringing the total recovered cases to 96.
The Ministry said a 62-year old Asian expat and a 78-year old GCC national who tested positive for COVID-19 died due to complications related to chronic diseases. This brings death toll to eight.
"Considering the problems of overseas Pakistanis it has been decided that the first flight would land at Islamabad International Airport on April 4. All passengers will be sent in quarantine and tested for COVID-19. Those tested negative will be sent home through special arrangement of transport," Asad Umar said.