Punjab: Jagjot Singh Rubal, an artist from Amritsar, gives final touches to a painting of US President Donald Trump ahead of his India visit (Photo Credit: ANI )
The White House on Friday said US President Donald Trump's India visit is a demonstration of the "strong and enduring ties" between the two largest democracies of the world. However, it added that a trade deal would be unlikely during the visit. It also said that President Trump may raise the issue of religious freedom with Prime Minister Modi but also noted that the US has great respect for India's democratic traditions and institutions.
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will lead a 12-member American delegation to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi on February 24 and 25.
According to new agency PTI, a senior administration official talked to media, on condition of anonymity, about the visit ahead of Trump's maiden presidential trip to India.
"The president is going to India as a demonstration of the strong and enduring ties between our two countries," the official told reporters less than 48 hours before Trump's departure for Delhi.
"These are ties based on shared democratic traditions, common strategic interests, and enduring bonds between our people. And, in part, this has been exemplified by the very close relationship between the President and Prime Minister Narendra Modi," the official was quoted as saying by PTI.
During the trip, the two countries will focus on defense and security cooperation to fight terrorism and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US wants an India that is strong with a capable military that supports peace, stability, and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, PTI quoted the official as saying.
"The visit will focus on several key areas. First, we'll focus on building our economic and energy ties," the official said.
"Indeed, India is a pillar of our Indo-Pacific strategy, and we continue to work together to promote this vision of a free and open international system based on market economics, good governance, freedom of the seas and skies, and respect for sovereignty," said the senior administration official.
"This visit will build upon our many shared values, our strategic and economic interests, and lock in those gains made in the relationship by the administration over the last three years," the official said.
There have been talks about India and the United States agreeing on a trade package as a precursor to a major trade deal. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has been negotiating a trade deal with India, is not travelling with Trump on the India trip. In fact, he had cancelled his earlier trip to India as well. However, the high-powered American delegation led by Trump will likely have discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi about these concerns and continue the discussion beyond this visit, said the senior administration official.
The official said a number of announcements coming from India in the past several weeks, are making the discussions a bit more difficult perhaps.
"Recent announcements on Make in India have made the protectionism concerns in India even greater. So we will be discussing those concerns. And what we see as an increase in barriers, not a decrease, this will certainly come up among the leaders," the official argued.
The senior administration official said "the Make in India push of the Indian government, has made the protectionism concerns" even more of a concern to the United States.
"We've seen India's budget process recently used to raise tariffs on products of interest in the United States. We continue to see important divergences on e-commerce and digital trade. So it's a pretty wide scope, frankly, of important service and goods access barriers that we need to address," the official said.
US President Donald Trump will raise the issue of religious freedom with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit.
"President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private. He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration," a senior official told reporters in a conference call.
The official was responding to a question on whether the president was planning to speak to Modi on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or the National Register of Citizens.
The visiting American delegation includes Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette, Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and National Security Advisor Robert O' Brien. Trump's daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who serve as Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the President respectively, will also be visiting India.
Senior advisors to the President Stephen Miller, Dan Scavino, Chief of Staff to the First Lady Lindsay Reynolds, Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Telecommunication Policy and Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff Robert Blair, and White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham are the other members of the delegation. United States Ambassador to India Ken Juster will be travelling with the visiting delegation.
Participants in additional bilateral meetings include Chief Executive Officer of US International Development Finance Corporation Adam Boehler, Chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai, Deputy Assistant to the President for South and Central Asian Affairs Lisa Curtis, Special Assistant to President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism Kash Patel and Director for India, National Security Council, Mike Passey.
According to the White House official, Trump will arrive in Ahmedabad on Monday, where he will deliver remarks at Sardar Patel Stadium with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Thereafter, the President and the First Lady will visit the Taj Mahal in Agra.
"They will then fly to New Delhi and rest overnight, and have a full program on Tuesday. This will include ceremonial events, bilateral meetings with the prime minister, a business event with Indian investors, with special focus on companies that are investing in manufacturing in the US," the official said.
"He'll have a meet-and-greet with embassy staff and a meeting with the President of India. And to cap it off, there will be a state dinner at the presidential palace - Rashtrapati Bhavan - on Tuesday evening," the official said.
(With PTI Inputs)