U.S. President Donald Trump is currently on his first state visit to India, and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government has pulled out all stops to ensure that his visit is a success. After all, PM Modi is looking to woo Trump as he seeks the latter’s co-operation in getting India out of an economic rut.
India has reportedly spent 130 crore rupees (roughly $18 million at the current exchange rate) to ensure that Trump likes what he sees in India – right from huge crowds chanting his name to building walls that will hide poverty-laden slums that happen to lie on his cavalcade’s route.
Not surprisingly, this amount of spending on a 36-hour state visit has drawn sharp criticisms from several corners as Trump might not eventually give Modi what he wants despite the rousing welcome he has received.
It is well-known that President Trump likes a crowd, and Indian PM Narendra Modi promised him the same. That’s probably the reason why Trump seemed quite excited about the trip as he tweeted in Hindi to express his pleasure of visiting India.
As it turns out, Trump expected to be greeted by as many as 10 million people in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad where the trip began.
That was an absurd claim as the city is home to just over 5.5 million people according to the last official census. The city’s municipal corporation finally clarified that just 100,000 people will be there to greet Trump’s cavalcade after he lands at the airport and makes his way to the Sardar Patel Stadium – the world’s largest cricket stadium with a seating capacity of 110,000.
A packed stadium means that Trump has been welcomed by twice the number of people present at the “Howdy, Modi!” event held last year in Houston where a reported 50,000 people turned up. What’s more, to ensure that Trump’s eyes don’t wander to the poverty-laden slums on his route to the stadium, the city council hastily erected a brick wall on a 500 meter stretch of the road.
All of this means that PM Modi and Indian officials want to give Trump the best experience on his short visit to India, where he will also be visiting the iconic Taj Mahal. But all the attempts to woo Trump may not lead to any meaningful gains for India.
Before coming to India, Trump had dealt a few blows that would have left a bad taste in PM Modi’s mouth. Just before the trip, the U.S. decided to remove India from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) list. As a result, India no more enjoys tariff-free access to the U.S. market.
Given that India had received $260 million in GSP benefits until 2018, this move from Trump means that he is in a mood to play hardball with India and PM Modi. What’s more, Trump reportedly wants India to grant free access to U.S. companies through the removal of tariffs on several items such as Harley Davidson motorcycles, U.S. farm produce, and expensive medical equipment.
Though PM Modi is unlikely to open up the Indian market for the U.S. as Trump anticipates, the two sides could find common ground and probably agree to a limited deal.
But that would not look good for PM Modi as India is currently facing a severe economic crunch.
The country’s exports have been declining for five months straight as the trade deficit has widened to $15 billion. The business with China has taken a hit on account of the coronavirus outbreak. So, if Trump doesn’t give PM Modi the presents the entire country is anticipating in return for such a warm welcome, the latter could end up being the ultimate loser.
Last modified: February 24, 2020 1:48 PM UTC