Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump during their meeting on the sidelines of UNGA in New York in September last year.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump during their meeting on the sidelines of UNGA in New York in September last year.

Trump's India visit: Religious freedom, defence among top agendas despite odds over trade

ANI | Updated: Feb 23, 2020 17:50 IST

New Delhi [India], Feb 23 (ANI): US President Donald Trump will be embarking on his first official visit to India early next week. Accompanied by a ministerial delegation of officials, the visiting dignitary is expected to raise issues over religious freedom and recent developments in Kashmir.
This is the eighth visit by a sitting US President and the ninth meeting between Modi and Trump.
The duo had first met each other during the Prime Minister's first trip to the White House in June 2017 post the President assuming power earlier that year. Modi and Trump had then held an almost five-hour long bilateral conversation in a bid to forge a strong personal bond and advance a solid bilateral relationship.
The visit was the first attempt on both sides that provided an opportunity to further strengthen the US-India strategic partnership.
Within days, the two leaders once again met at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2017. The President had waved to Modi and then walked up to him for an "impromptu" chat after the summit.
"In an impromptu interaction at G20 Summit, POTUS waves to the PM, walks to him, other leaders gather around. Gr8 moments," Arvind Panagariya, then India's Sherpa for G20 talks had tweeted.
The two leaders then met on the margins of the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit that took place on April 26-27, 2017, and then at the East Asia Summit in the Filipino capital of Manila in November 2017.
Modi and Trump, along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, had held a trilateral meeting and discussed the Indo-Pacific connectivity.
The two leaders had met on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina in 2018, Modi's last multilateral summit before the 2019 general elections.
Amidst this, the US President had declined India's invitation to attend this year's Republic Day as the chief guest owing to scheduling issues.
Since the Prime Minister's re-election in May last year, Modi and Trump have met four times so far.
In a fifth meeting, Modi and Trump had also engaged bilaterally on the sidelines of G20 summit in Osaka in Japan, in June last year, within a month after the former secured a second five-year term in the Lok Sabha elections.
The two leaders met again in Houston and then on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last September. The previous two meetings of the duo were on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Japan and G-7 Summit in France this summer.
The US President joined the Indian Prime Minister in Houston's NRG Stadium on September 22, 2019, to address the 'Howdy Modi' rally, a mega event that was attended by more than 50,000 Indian-Americans. In return, Trump now has been promised 'millions and millions of people' to greet him and the First Lady, Melania Trump in India. The visiting dignitary is also expected to attend an event at the Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad, named 'Namaste Trump,' on the lines of the 'Howdy Modi.'
Following the event, both the leaders joined together to review a wide gamut of bilateral relations shared between the two democracies on "shared values, convergent interests and complementary strengths".
Former India's ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla had then said, "India-US strategic partnership has emerged as one of the key bilateral relationships from the start of this century and has the potential to become the defining partnership within this century."
Modi had reiterated that India has taken a number of steps in this regard such as improving the business and investment climate. He repeated the same thing during his visit to Houston, where Indian companies are investing in the US.
Tensions on the trade front between the two countries had emerged in June last year, after Trump revoked preferential trade privileges, in response to which India imposed tariffs on 28 US products, including almonds and apples. However, it should be noted that despite several meetings between the two sides in both India and the US trade negotiators of the two countries are yet to finalise on a deal even after 18 months.
Even prior to Trump's upcoming visit to India, US administration officials have raised concerns over India's protectionist policy, adding that the "Make in India" campaign makes the discussion on trade difficult.
Regarding his repeated offer of mediation on Kashmir, Trump had then noted that he believes Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan would "get along" and work out a peaceful solution to the recent disputes between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Modi and Trump had held bilateral talks in Biarritz in France, on the sidelines of the 45th Group of Seven (G7) summit last year. The meeting assumed significance as both the two leaders had met for the first time since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The abortion of the former legislation became a bone of contention for Pakistan in the wake of which the country downgraded its diplomatic ties with India and expelled its envoy.
"We spoke last night about Kashmir, Prime Minister really feels he has it under control. They speak with Pakistan and I am sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good," the US President had told reporters after his meeting with Modi when asked over his discussion about the regional situation post-New Delhi's decision.
Therefore, Trump's upcoming visit to India, next week, will surely make Pakistan turn its head as the dignitary will arrive in South Asia but would not pay a visit to the Islamic country despite, time and again, spreading false narratives and trying to humiliate India on the global platform. It is to be seen how the US President take his relationship further with India amid New Delhi's contentions with Islamabad.
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will have an extensive schedule for February 25 when they arrive in Delhi. According to sources, there will be multiple meetings and delegation-level talks apart from the exchange of agreements.
On Friday, the Department of State, during a press briefing, said that the visit would focus on enhancing economic, energy, defense and security cooperation between the two countries. (ANI)