Trump was greeted by Modi, whom Trump recently described as “a friend of mine.” The two leaders appeared together at a rally in Houston last year. Trump’s visit to India comes as the two countries continue to deepen their security cooperation but face stubborn tensions over trade.
Before leaving for India, Trump told reporters the trip would be “very exciting,” and the “biggest event” India has ever held.
Here are the latest developments:
● Thousands of people lined the streets of Ahmedabad, the largest city in the state of Gujarat, to welcome Trump. Trump had said earlier that as many as 10 million people would be there to greet him. Preparations included building a wall to hide a slum along his route.
● Before the rally, Trump visited an ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati River where Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, India’s revered independence leader, lived for 13 years.
● Trump and Modi lavished praise on each other during a joint rally at the world’s largest cricket stadium. Modi welcomed Trump to the world’s biggest democracy while Trump touted a $3 billion defense deal and spoke of the close ties between the two countries.
February 24, 2020 at 7:47 AM EST
Trump once had his own Taj Mahal
NEW DELHI — President Trump visited the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra with wife Melania on Monday as part of his two-day India trip. But his association with the monument dates back decades.
In 1990, Trump opened the world’s largest casino-hotel complex in Atlantic City in New Jersey: the Trump Taj Mahal. Advertisements hailed it as the eighth wonder of the world, and Trump invited Michael Jackson to the launch.
“It’s a big day for me,” Trump told reporters as he gave Jackson a tour of the property, reportedly built for $1.2 billion.
The similarities between Trump’s Taj and the original end at the white exteriors. Trump’s version had red neon signs, multiple white-and-gold domes and murals depicting elephants.
Unlike the original Taj, which attracts millions of visitors every year, Trump’s Taj was not a hit. Within a year, the Trump Taj Mahal filed for bankruptcy. In 2009, Trump sold his stake in the casino, although the property continued to use his name. The Taj never recovered and was sold to Hard Rock International in 2017 for a paltry four cents on the dollar.
By the end, the Trump Taj Mahal had lost all its sheen and was liquidated. The company sold off everything, from furnishings to gigantic chandeliers, at an auction starting at $375.
By Niha Masih
February 24, 2020 at 7:21 AM EST
Trump visits the Taj Mahal: ‘Truly incredible’
NEW DELHI – President Trump and first lady Melania Trump toured the Taj Mahal in Agra during the final event of their first day in India. The president described the famed monument as “truly incredible.”
The visit was the first by Trump to the UNESCO World Heritage site, a massive white marble mausoleum that was constructed by Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, starting in 1632 on the banks of the Yamuna River.
The first couple arrived in golf carts to the site around 5 p.m. local time. While there, they signed a guest book, walked the grounds accompanied by a tour guide and posed for multiple photos, including next to the bench where Princess Diana was famously photographed in 1992.
“Do you want to do a press conference now?” Trump asked the reporters accompanying him. He added: “It’s incredible, truly incredible.”
By Seung Min Kim
February 24, 2020 at 6:19 AM EST
The hard-line Hindu monk Trump met in India
NEW DELHI — Upon arriving in Agra to visit the Taj Mahal, Trump met Yogi Adityanath, a radical Hindu monk known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric. The two shook hands and walked down the red carpet lined with performers.
Adityanath is the chief minister of India’s largest and most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, where Agra is located. Ahead of the meeting, critics decried the scheduled interaction, which they said could help legitimize Adityanath’s divisive politics.
The saffron-robed priest is a five-time parliamentarian who has more than a dozen criminal cases pending against him, including serious charges such as attempted murder and rioting. He has not been convicted of a crime.
Nearly 80 percent of India is Hindu, but with 200 million Muslims, the country is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the world. In 2014, Adityanath promised to cleanse India of other religions. “This is the century of Hindutva, not just in India but in the entire world,” he said.
He has also accused Nobel Peace Prize winner Mother Teresa, a Roman Catholic nun who worked with terminally ill patients in the eastern city of Kolkata, of being part of a conspiracy to convert Hindus to Christianity. In 2015, after Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan, a Muslim, spoke on the “growing intolerance” in the country, Adityanath compared him to Hafiz Saeed, a founder of terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.
In recent months, Adityanath’s government has launched a violent crackdown on protests against a new citizenship law. Witnesses say police have beaten students and protesters, ransacked homes and arrested people on spurious charges. Reacting to the charges, his office said that “stern” action by authorities had shocked the demonstrators. “After seeing the all-powerful form of Yogi Adityanath’s government, every rioter must be thinking that he has made a big mistake by challenging Yogi’s authority,” read a tweet.
By Niha Masih
February 24, 2020 at 5:01 AM EST
Trump announces $3 billion defense deal with India
NEW DELHI — President Trump said Monday that the United States and India are poised to sign a new agreement to sell $3 billion worth of U.S. military helicopters to the Indian armed forces as he touted a “critical partnership” between the two countries.
Last fall, the United States and India held the first-ever joint military exercises on air, land and sea between the two countries. That event, called “Tiger Triumph” was touted by Trump as “something to behold.” And he touted the helicopter sale agreement, which may be the most substantive policy announcement of his visit to India this week that is large on pageantries.
U.S. officials approved the deal last year, and the Indian cabinet did the same last week.
“I believe that the United States should be India’s premier defense partner,” Trump said during his 27-minutes-long remarks at Sardar Patel Stadium, also known as Motera Stadium, in Ahmedabad. Yet Trump also tempered expectations for a potential trade deal during his quick, 36-hour jaunt here this week, saying that the two countries were now in the “early stages” of an “incredible” deal but that he was finding Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be a formidable opponent.
Few are expecting the two leaders to ink a trade deal during Trump’s visit. The United States and India had ratcheted up trade tensions last year as the United States ended preferential trade privileges for India, which responded by imposing retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products.
“I am optimistic that working together, the prime minister and I can reach a fantastic deal that is good and even great for both of our countries,” Trump said. “Except that he’s a very tough negotiator.”
By Seung Min Kim
February 24, 2020 at 4:57 AM EST
Trump says Namaste (Hello) India
NEW DELHI — President Trump praised what he called India’s unity, diversity and tolerance during his remarks at the “Namaste Trump” rally, returning to the theme repeatedly but making no direct mention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s controversial citizenship law passed in December or the state of emergency his Hindu nationalist government has imposed on Kashmir.
Trump said India’s economic rise is built on its democratic political system and diversity, a reference apparently meant to air U.S. concerns without criticizing Trump’s host, who beamed nearby.
“Your devotion built this great and enduring democracy and it is your dreams that will power this country to a future of even greater progress, prosperity, equality and opportunity for every citizen across your land,” Trump said. He said he addressed his remarks to “every Indian, north and south, Hindu, and Muslim, Jewish and Christian, rich and poor, young and old.”
The citizenship law has alarmed many Indian Muslims, fueling anxiety that the government’s next step will be to conduct a nationwide citizenship test that could target their status as citizens.
By Anne Gearan
February 24, 2020 at 4:09 AM EST
Modi addresses massive rally with Trump
NEW DELHI — Following a 13-mile roadshow, President Trump arrived at Sardar Patel Stadium, also known as Motera stadium, to the cheers of more than 100,000 people. Roads had a festive air with cutouts of Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, flags of the two countries and colorful balloons.
Onstage, Trump in a dark suit and neon-yellow tie waved to crowds and hugged Modi. Trump’s daughter Ivanka was mobbed for selfies by excited spectators.
Modi, who spoke first, began by asking the crowds to chant “long live” while he repeated “India-U.S. friendship.” Calling the event “historic,” Modi described the “Howdy Modi” event in Houston he had with Trump five months ago. He referred to Trump as his “friend,” and he said the world’s biggest democracy welcomed him.
“The America-India relationship is no longer just another relationship, but an inclusive and exhaustive partnership,” he said to applause. Modi said while the United States was the land of the free, India considers the world their family. He thanked Ivanka and Melania Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, personally recalling his interactions with each.
Wrapping up the short speech, Modi said, “To the 1.3 billion Indians, I present to you, Donald Trump, the president of the United States of America.”
By Niha Masih
February 24, 2020 at 2:56 AM EST
Bollywood memes featuring Trump go viral
NEW DELHI — President Trump’s fans in India are celebrating his visit by morphing his face into Bollywood videos.
In the video, Trump’s face is superimposed on a song from the hit movie “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,” an action-packed epic that tells the story of a mythical king set in ancient India.
The song’s edited video, “Jiyo re Baahubali” (“Long Live Strongman”), shows Trump on the battlefield leading an army on a horse, wielding a sword and killing enemies. He is shown riding a chariot with his wife, Melania, sitting behind him and wearing an Indian dress. In another frame, he appears to be carrying his children, Don Jr. and Ivanka on his shoulders as people cheer him on.
“Look so forward to being with my great friends in INDIA!” Trump tweeted with the video.
This is not the first time a Bollywood-themed meme featuring Trump has gone viral. In February, after the Senate acquitted Trump of impeachment charges, Don Jr. shared a video of Trump’s face morphed onto a song from another period film set in the 18th century.
Dressed in the outfit of a medieval soldier, Trump dances, spins and jumps to a song that celebrates victory over enemies punctuated by trumpet sounds. “We won. You lost. Get the hell over it,” Don Jr. wrote on the post, which received more than 1 million views in two weeks.
By Niha Masih
February 24, 2020 at 2:28 AM EST
Inside stadium, cheering crowds prepare to welcome Trump
AHMEDABAD — Inside the world’s largest cricket stadium, tens of thousands of people in white “Namaste Trump” hats bearing the Indian and American flags have gathered to welcome President Trump.
Popular singers entertained the crowd, which cheered and danced under the midday sun as they awaited the arrival of Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Some of those in attendance seemed more enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing Modi than his American visitor.
Abhishek Parihar, 18, a university student, heard about the event at a tutoring class and jumped at the chance to see the prime minister.
“I am very excited to see Modi,” he said. And Trump? “Yes, him also,” said Parihar. Trump is a “very nice person and he was a successful businessman. And he is the best friend of Modi.”
Shivang Chaurashia, 31, works in private equity in New York but happened to be making a trip to see his family in Ahmedabad. “I am a big fan of both of them,” he said of the two leaders. His father, Dikshit, 58, stood next to him, nodding. “This one we have to attend. It’s a big deal.”
Vinod Patel, 51, arrived with his son and niece. Patel runs a decoration business and helped adorn Trump’s route through Ahmedabad, creating 11 tableaus from the life of Mohandas Gandhi and a giant gate over the road celebrating the visit.
He completed the job in 10 days. “When work is given by Modi, there is no tiredness,” Patel said.
Others said they had come for the sheer spectacle of the event. “Just to see it,” said Ashutosh Gupta, 50, who works at a government telecom firm. He demurred when asked what he thought of Trump. “He is the president of the United States — that’s sufficient.”
By Joanna Slater
February 24, 2020 at 2:22 AM EST
Trump visits ashram where Mohandas Gandhi lived
AHMEDABAD — After a ride through streets lined with people, President Trump arrived at a spot of quiet contemplation: the place where Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, India’s revered independence leader, lived for 13 years.
Gandhi’s ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati River is where he began his historic Salt March to protest British rule. It is also where he composed much of his autobiography.
The ashram is a favorite spot for world leaders visiting Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat, Gandhi’s home state. Visitors have included Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, South African politician Nelson Mandela and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. There they can see Gandhi’s abode, a modest home embracing a courtyard. To enter the home, they must remove their shoes.
Visiting dignitaries often try their hand at Gandhi’s famous spinning wheel and pay their respects at a statue of him. At least one world leader — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — was moved to tears by the experience, said Atul Pandya, the ashram’s director.
In an interview before Trump’s visit, Pandya said that the ashram was hoping to give Trump a collection of Gandhi’s writings entitled “Letters to Americans” as a souvenir.
“To my great friend Prime Minister Modi — thank you for this wonderful visit!” Trump wrote in the visitors book.
Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Mohandas Gandhi and a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, urged Trump to use the visit as an opportunity for looking inward. If Trump wants to “pick up a Gandhian message, he will need to find some quiet moments, and remain silent, reflect on Gandhi’s thought of crossing out the big ‘I’,” he said. Trump could focus “on how to bring a polarized people together and how to diminish hate instead of encouraging it.” The same goes for Modi, Trump’s host, he said.
By Joanna Slater
February 24, 2020 at 1:34 AM EST
Trump arrives in India
AHMEDABAD — President Trump arrived in India at 11:35 am local time for his first official visit to the world’s largest democracy, beginning a 36-hour visit that will be packed with pageantry and symbolism but few concrete accomplishments.
At the airport in Ahmedabad, the western Indian city where Trump is beginning his visit, he was greeted to a red carpet welcome. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi enveloped the American leader in one of his signature hugs. A traditional tableau of men and women in colorful Indian dresses awaited Trump as he stepped off Air Force One. Females dancers with pots on their heads clapped to beating drums.
Singers, dancers and acrobats will perform on specially-erected stages as the two leaders pass through the city. Trump and Modi will make a brief stop at Sabarmati Ashram, where Mohandas Gandhi, India’s freedom movement leader, lived for 13 years. Then they will head to the world’s largest cricket stadium for a rally expected to draw more than 100,000 people.
The rally is the centerpiece of Trump’s trip to India. Both leaders are eager for the chance to be portrayed as statesmen: Trump is beginning a bruising reelection campaign and Modi is facing the most significant show of opposition since he took office.
Trump has made repeated references to the size of the crowds awaiting him. At a rally in Colorado last week, Trump said Modi had told him there would be “10 million people” to greet him. Rallies in the United States are “going to look like peanuts from now on,” Trump said.
Trump’s claim is false. Around 100,000 people are expected to line the streets of the city and another 120,000 could attend the stadium rally, Vijay Nehra, the municipal commissioner of Ahmedabad, said in an interview with The Washington Post.
By Joanna Slater and Niha Masih
February 24, 2020 at 12:54 AM EST
Ahead of Trump’s arrival in India, a frenzy of preparations
AHMEDABAD — President Trump is arriving Monday for his first visit as president to the world’s largest democracy, and the Indian government is leaving nothing to chance.
In Ahmedabad, the city in western India where Trump is beginning his visit, the past two weeks have been marked by a frenzy of preparations. Workers have resurfaced roads, built new sidewalks, replaced street lamps, planted saplings and coated overpasses with fresh paint. They’ve rounded up stray dogs from the area where Trump is due to address a mega-rally with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to local media.
The road that Trump will take from the airport is lined with flag and billboards hailing his arrival, not to mention larger-than-life cutouts of the two leaders.
Shortly before he was due to land, Trump posted a tweet in Hindi that he was “eager” to reach India soon.
हम भारत आने के लिए तत्पर हैं । हम रास्ते में हैँ, कुछ ही घंटों में हम सबसे मिलेंगे!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 24, 2020
Some of the preparations have been more controversial: Ahmedabad authorities raised a 6-foot high, 200-yard long wall in front of a slum along a road near the airport.
Later Monday afternoon, Trump will travel to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal, which has been buffed and scrubbed ahead of his visit. Authorities even released additional water into the Yamuna river that runs behind the Taj to improve its smell and make it sparkle.
In Delhi, where Trump arrives Monday night ahead of a day of meetings on Tuesday, city authorities are procuring 10,000 pots of flowering plants to beautify the areas Trump will visit, according to a local media report.
For more on the preparations for Trump’s visit, read our piece.
By Joanna Slater