US, Indian Leaders Say Working on Major Trade Deal
25 February 2020, 13:29
U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday their countries are working on a major trade deal, after they held talks in New Delhi on the final day of Trump’s visit to India, VOA news reports.
“Our teams have made tremendous progress on a comprehensive trade agreement, and I’m optimistic we can reach a deal that will be of great importance to both countries,” Trump said.
He announced the completion of an agreement for India to buy $3 billion in helicopters and other military equipment from the United States, and said the countries were expanding cooperation on counterterrorism, cybersecurity and maritime security.
Trump declared U.S-India relations to be “truly stronger than ever before.”
Modi gave similar praise, saying Trump had substantially increasing trade between the two countries and raised relations to a high level.
He also said he and Trump had productive talks on various key aspects of their countries’ partnership, including defense and security, energy and technology cooperation.
Before Trump and Modi spoke, Indian officials announced memorandums of understanding on mental health and safety on medical products, as well as a letter of cooperation on oil.
Earlier in the day, Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind welcomed Trump at a ceremony at India’s presidential palace before Trump and his wife, Melania, participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.
Human rights issues
Trump’s visit comes at the heels of protests against India’s new citizenship law, that critics say marginalizes the country’s more than 200 million Muslims – a charge the Modi government denies. Some members of the U.S. Congress are also expressing concern about the law that fast tracks Indian citizenship to immigrants from three neighboring countries – unless they are Muslims.
At a Monday rally, Trump hinted at India’s status as a pluralistic society.
“Your nation has always been admired around the earth as the place where millions upon millions of Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs and Jains worship side by side in harmony,” he said.
Analysts expect that’s about as far as the U.S. leader would push on the issue.
“The State Department does say that we want India to do more and to abide by its constitutional rights and false minorities,” Pande said but that “top level U.S. officials have avoided any statement on India’s human rights citizenship act.”
Police say seven people were killed and about 150 injured Monday as violent protests erupted in New Delhi as clashes erupted between those protesting against the citizenship law and those supporting it hours ahead of President Trump’s arrival in the city.
On his first day in India, Trump also avoided any mention of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region that India and Pakistan are fighting over. Last year Trump offered to mediate on the Kashmir dispute, which Islamabad welcomed but New Delhi rejected.
“Attempts to lecture, coerce, punish, intervene in India’s affairs have traditionally not been particularly effective,” Smith, of the Heritage Foundation, said
Ending his first day in India, the U.S. president, who once owned the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, took in views of the real Indian iconic landmark with first lady Melania Trump.
Trump is the fourth consecutive U.S. president to travel to India, continuing the shift in allegiance by Washington to Delhi from India’s arch-rival and neighbor, Pakistan.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, after a recent meeting with Trump during the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, said the U.S. president also promised to visit Pakistan soon.
If “there is no complementary visit to Pakistan or no side agreement on some other way to assuage concerns there, then I think Pakistan will take it as a slight,” said Richard Russow, senior adviser for U.S.-India policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.