• Thursday, May 28, 2020
  • Last Update : 04:46 pm

Mega rally as Trump begins first official India visit

  • Published at 02:39 pm February 24th, 2020
INDIA-USA-Donald Trump-Narendra Modi-Melania Trump
US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump look at Charkha, a type of Indian spinning wheel, next to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as they visit the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India February 24, 2020 Reuters

The billionaire and the tea seller's son were due to address a huge rally of around 100,000 people at the world's biggest cricket stadium

US President Donald Trump arrived in India on Monday for a lightning visit featuring a huge rally at the world's biggest cricket stadium and other high-profile photo opportunities, but likely short on concrete achievements.

Trade tensions have grown between the world's two biggest democracies as Trump's "America First" drive collides with fellow protectionist strongman 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 tea seller's son 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 4:00 am local time 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.

Preparations have been feverish for the visit, with workers rushing to finish the stadium and building a wall that locals said was to hide a slum. Stray dogs, cows and monkeys have been moved away.

Parts of the Taj Mahal, the white marble "jewel of Muslim art" according to Unesco, were given a mud-pack facial to remove stains while efforts were undertaken to lessen the stench of the adjacent river.

Trump told a rally on Thursday that "six to 10 million people" would be along the route of his motorcade, but this appears to have been a misunderstanding. Organisers said there will be tens of thousands.

Thousands of posters with the words were erected every 10 metres along Ahmedabad's major roads. Sellers of flags and masks of Modi and Trump were doing brisk business.

Trump tweeted en route to India - in Hindi - that he was "eager to come to India" while Modi responded by saying that "guests are next to God", a well-known saying.


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