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US, India to Display Strong Cultural, Strategic Cooperation During Trumps First India Visit

President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are set to charm crowds with their bonhomie while their respective administrations work out long-term strategic goals during a two-day state visit to India by the U.S. president beginning Feb. 24.

Upon his arrival, Trump will be welcomed with a massive roadshow along the 14 miles of his route from the airport to Indias new cricket stadium, the worlds largest, that Trump will inaugurate in the city of Ahmedabad, in Modis home state of Gujarat.

The president will then address a gathering of more than 110,000 people at the stadium, after which he, the first lady, and Modi will visit Sabarmati Ashram, the former abode of Mahatma Gandhi.

The same day, the three will fly to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal, the ivory-white marble mausoleum known as one of the worlds most iconic symbols of love. Meanwhile, diplomats on both sides will be working to ink various deals that Trump and Modis teams are expected to sign the next day in New Delhi.

American and Indian analysts say that while the trip will be a feather in the presidents cap during an election year, its important for the United States long-term strategic goals and for the people of both nations as an occasion to emotionally connect.

U.S. and Indian national flags wave
U.S. and Indian national flags wave
U.S. and Indian national flags wave in front of a billboard displaying pictures of Indias Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump (C) and his wife Melania (R) near the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad on Feb. 22, 2020, ahead of U.S. President Donald Trumps visit in India. (Sam Panthaky/AFP via Getty Images)

Aparna Pande, research fellow and director of Hudson Institutes Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia, told The Epoch Times that the welcome reception of the U.S. president will show the goodwill between the two countries and their peoples.

“The welcome reception of President Trump, with hundreds of thousands of Indians lining the streets, elaborate tableaus representing Indias diversity, and the Namaste Trump [Hello Trump] extravaganza will demonstrate the vibrancy of the personal bonhomie of the two leaders as well as the people-to-people links of both countries,” Pande said.

While discussing the background of the trip, senior White House officials said on Feb. 21 the president is going to India to show strong and enduring ties between the two nations.

“And, in part, this has been exemplified by the very close relationship between the President and Prime Minister Modi,” a senior White House official said.

The administration will be working on many strategic goals in the background, Jeff M. Smith, a research fellow in Heritages Asian Studies Center, told The Epoch Times in an email.

“The trip is significant as it is the first trip to India by President Trump since he assumed office and the country has assumed a prominent place in his administrations Indo-Pacific Strategy,” Smith said.

In a report released in November, the State Department said the Trump administrations Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy aims at containing “authoritarian revisionist powers,” directly hinting at a few global powers, particularly China.

The introductory message by Secretary State of Mike Pompeo to the report defined India as a strategic partner, while it didnt specifically mention any other individual nation.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Workers plant and install new flowers in front of the Taj Mahal in Agra on Feb. 22, 2020, ahead of U.S. President Donald Trumps visit in India. (Pawan Sharma/AFP via Getty Images)

Visiting India in an Election Year

Brahma Chellaney, a geopolitical analyst and a former member of the Indian governments Policy Advisory Group, notes that Trumps visit is happening months before the national elections and is an opportunity to woo the Indian diaspora in the United States that has traditionally voted Democrat.

Trump organized for Modi the “Howdy Modi” extravaganza in Houston last September that filled a stadium with more than 50,000 of the Indian diaspora. Similarly, Modi is organizing “Namaste Trump” at Indias new stadium.

“With Trumps focus on getting reelected in November, his India visit will also endear him to the increasingly influential and wealthy Indian-Americans, who now number about 4 million, or 1.3 percent of the total U.S. population. They not only matter in some of the swing states for the presidential election, but also are important political donors,” Chellaney said.

Pande said the trip is symbolically important for Trump and will also help him to connect with his larger voter base in the United States.

“President Trump is going into an election in November, he wants to demonstrate … to the wider American public that the United States has good relations with key countries and partners around the world and a visit to the largest democracy in the world, a country that is a key part of the Indo-Pacific,” Pande said.

“So, for a President who likes a celebration, events, rallies, and for whom symbolism matters, India is important.”

However, she said she doubts that the trip will earn Trump extra votes from the Indian American community.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Students paint on canvas faces of President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and Indias Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the street in Mumbai, India, on Feb. 21, 2020. (Indranil Mukherjee/AFP via Getty Images)

Defense and Security Partnership

Chellaney, an author of nine books and a columnist for Project Syndicate, said that as nationalist leaders, Trump and Modi share a common security vision for their respective countries and that the two countries are natural allies in countering Jihadist terrorism.

“In the way Modi casts himself as Indias chowkidar [protector] safeguarding the countrys frontiers from terrorists and other subversives, Trump has prioritized border defenses to keep out those that threaten our security,'” he said.

Senior White House officials said on Feb. 21 that defense and security cooperation would be a key focus of the visit.

India cleared the purchase of 24 Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk Romeo multirole maritime helicopters through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program on Feb. 19; Indias defense purchases from the United States have reached $17 billion since 2007, according to Reuters.

“We will focus on defense and security cooperation to both fight terrorism and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. wants an India that is strong, with a capable military that supports peace, stability, and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region,” the senior administration officials said.

Smith said Indias recent defense acquisitions from the United States will help bolster its defensive capabilities.

“There have yet to be any major arms deals signed during President Trumps tenure so its important for the two sides to maintain momentum in defense cooperation and to provide each side with a win,'” he said. “The platforms will allow India to fill some crRead More – Source

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