Udayavni Special

Passage to India: Trump ready for warm embrace, adulation


PTI, Feb 24, 2020, 8:54 AM IST

Washington: President Donald Trump’s packed two-day visit to India promises the kind of welcome that has eluded him on many foreign trips, some of which have featured massive protests and icy handshakes from world leaders.

He is expected to receive a warm embrace from the ideologically aligned and hug-loving Prime Minister Narendra Modi, complete with a massive rally soon after his arrival Monday and then a sunset visit to the Taj Mahal.

After hosting Modi at a Howdy Modi rally in Houston last year that drew 50,000 people, Modi will return the favor with a Namaste Trump rally (it translates to, “Greetings, Trump) at the world’s largest cricket stadium in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad. Tens of thousands are expected to line the streets.

Modi “told me we’ll have 7 million people between the airport and the event,” Trump said to reporters Tuesday, then raised the anticipated number to 10 million when he mentioned the trip during a Thursday night rally. Indian authorities expect closer to 100,000.

I’ll never be satisfied with a crowd if we have 10 million people in India,” Trump said. And as he left the White House on Sunday for the flight to India, the upcoming spectacle was on the president’s mind again: I hear it’s going to be a big event. Some people say the biggest event they’ve ever had in India. That’s what the prime minister told me this will be the biggest event they’ve ever had.

Trump’s motorcade will travel amid cheers from carefully picked and screened Modi loyalists and workers from his Bharatiya Janata Party. They will stand for hours alongside the neatly manicured 22-kilometer (14-mile) stretch of road to accord Trump a grand welcome.

Trump generally dislikes foreign travel and prefers being home in his White House bed; in fact, he noted to reporters upon his departure from the White House that it was a long trip to India and that he was only going to be there one night. But he has a particular affinity for India. He owned a hotel and casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, named the Trump Taj Mahal, and he owns multiple properties in India.

There’s a lot of colors. This is a loud and boisterous country, and that exactly in some ways really fits with the Trump-style,” said Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow, and director of The India Project at the Brookings Institution. She said Trump is likely to get a king’s welcome from a country well-rehearsed in the art of adulation. A half-million people gathered to hear President Dwight D. Eisenhower speak in 1959; former President Jimmy Carter had a village named after him Carterpuri.

In some ways, American presidents go to India to feel loved, said Madan.

She predicted Trump would receive an even grander welcome because the Indians recognize it’s something Trump expects and that could keep them in his good graces.

It’s not about him, per se, for them. It is the U.S. relationship for India is crucial,” she said.

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