Trump: US, India to sign $3bn arms deals today

The Asian Age.  | Sridhar Kumaraswami

India, All India

Working with Pak to crack down on terror, says Trump.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit the Taj Mahal in Agra on Monday. (Photo: AFP)

New Delhi: Shortly after landing just before noon in Air Force One on Monday in Ahmedabad, US President Donald Trump — accompanied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — addressed a huge crowd at the massive Motera Cricket Stadium in the Gujarat capital, and said both his country and India are “firmly united in our iron-clad resolve to defend our citizens from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism”, adding that his administration was “working in a very positive way with Pakistan to crack down on the terrorist organisations and militants that operate on the Pakistani border”. The US President also declared that the two countries would “sign deals” of over $3 billion on Tuesday “in the (sale of) absolute finest state-of-the-art military helicopters and other equipment to the Indian armed forces”. This is expected to include 24 advanced MH-60 “Romeo” naval multi-role helicopters (NMRH) valued at about $2.6 billion, and also possibly six Apache attack helicopters for the Army estimated to be less than $1 billion. Saying that “the US should be India’s premium defence partner”, he said the US “looks forward to providing India with some of the best and most feared military equipment on the planet”. President Trump also said the two countries were “in the early stages of discussion for an incredible trade agreement to reduce barriers of investment”. These remarks are being seen as further acceptance of India’s concerns on cross-border terrorism from Pakistan and also indicate how the United States is eyeing India’s growing defence market.

The US President — accompanied by his delegation that includes family members First Lady Melania Trump, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner — is on a two-day visit to India. After landing in Ahmedabad, Mr Trump and his family visited Sabarmati Ashram accompanied by Mr Modi and then thereeafter addressed the massive crowd estimated to be around one lakh at the Motera Stadium. He later visited Agra along with his family members and other delegation members to see the iconic Taj Mahal before reaching New Delhi later in the evening. He will hold talks with Mr Modi on Tuesday. Prime Minister Modi, in his initial remarks,
described Indo-US ties as “not just another partnership” but rather a “far greater and closer relationship”. “Friendship is where trust is unshakeable”, he said. “Long-live Indo-US friendship”, Mr Modi chanted, as the huge crowd chorused after him. Mr Modi also praised the US President and his family, describing President Trump as a “big thinker”, adding: “I present to you my friend — Donald Trump”.

President Trump then told the one lakh-strong crowd at the stadium: “America loves India, America respects India, and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people”. He also hailed the co-existence of all religious communities in India, and the country’s rise as a “peaceful, democratic, tolerant” nation. “India has become an economic giant, the largest democracy ever to exist, and one of the most amazing nations anywhere in the world ... Your nation has always been admired around the earth as the place where millions upon millions of Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs and Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Jews worship side by side in harmony; where you speak more than 100 languages and come from more than two dozen states, yet you have always stood strong as one great Indian nation.  Your unity is an inspiration to the world,” the US President said. Significantly, towards the end of the event, Mr Modi — who got the crowd roaring with cries of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” — also mentioned the abolition of instant triple talaq benefiting Muslim women as one of the achievements of his government.

The US President hailed Mr Modi as a “tough negotiator” and an “exceptional leader, a great champion of India, a man who works night and day for his country, and a man I am proud to call my true friend”. Referring to Mr Modi’s humble origins as a “tea-seller”, the US President continued: “Prime Minister Modi, you are not just the pride of Gujarat — you are living proof that with hard work and devotion, Indians can accomplish anything ... anything at all, anything they want.”

Addressing the wildly cheering crowd, the US President said: “The United States and India are also firmly united in our iron-clad resolve to defend our citizens from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. Both of our countries have been hurt by the pain and turmoil ... that terrorism brings. Every nation has the right to secure and controlled borders. The US and India are committed to stop terrorists and fight their ideology. For this reason, since taking office, my administration is working in a very positive way with Pakistan to crack down on the terrorist organisations and militants that operate on the Pakistani border. Our relationship with Pakistan is a very good one. Thanks to these efforts, we are beginning to see signs of big progress with Pakistan. And we are hopeful for reduced tensions, greater stability and the future of harmony for all of the nations of South Asia. India has an important leadership role to play in shaping a better future.”

On trade ties between the two nations, the US President said: “We will be making very, very major — among the biggest ever made — trade deals.  We are in the early stages of discussion for an incredible trade agreement to reduce barriers of investment between the United States and India.  And I am optimistic that, working together, the Prime Minister and I can reach a fantastic deal that’s good and even great for both of our countries.  Except that he’s a very tough negotiator.”

Reaching out to India, President Trump said: “The First Lady and I have just travelled 8,000 miles around the globe to deliver a message to every citizen across this nation: America loves India, America respects India, and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people.”

“Five months ago, the United States welcomed your great Prime Minister at a giant football stadium in Texas, and today, India welcomes us at the world’s largest cricket stadium right here in Ahmedabad. It is a profound honour to be at the beautiful new stadium, to be here with you — Motera Stadium. So beautiful,” he added, to huge applause.

“You have done a great honour to the American people.  Melania and my family, we will always remember this remarkable hospitality.  We will remember it forever.  From this day on, India will always hold a very special place in our hearts. The Prime Minister has a moving story of an incredible rise, and so does this entire nation.  Your nation is doing so well.  We are very, very proud of India. The story of the Indian nation is a tale of astounding progress, a miracle of democracy, extraordinary diversity, and above all, a strong and noble people. India gives hope to all of humanity,” the US President told the applauding crowd.

Referring to the spread of economic development and poverty-alleviation measures in India that resulted in the “lifting of over 270 million people out of poverty”, Mr Trump said: “India’s rise as a prosperous and independent nation is an example to every nation all over the world and one of the most outstanding achievements of our century.  It is all the more inspiring because you have done it as a democratic country, you have done it as a peaceful country, you have done it as a tolerant country, and you have done it as a great free country. There is all the difference in the world between a nation that seeks power through coercion, intimidation, and aggression, and a nation that rises by setting its people free and unleashing them to chase their dreams.  And that is India.  This is why India’s accomplishment over the last 70 years is completely unrivalled no matter where you go.”

The President also praised 19th century spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda, and India’s first home minister Sardar Patel. Alluding to India’s soft power and rich culture of song and dance, President Trump also praised “the hub of genius and creativity known as Bollywood, saying: “All over the planet, people take great joy in scenes of bhangra music, dance, romance and drama, and classic Indian films like DDLJ and Sholay.” Going on to cricket, he said: “This is the country where your people cheer on some of the world’s greatest cricket players — from Sachin Tendulkar to Virat Kohli.”