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In India, Trump and Modi Talk Trade but No Big Deal Announced


U.S. President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stand for photographs at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent a lot of time discussing trade issues in New Delhi but there was no announcement on a major trade deal.

"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.

U.S. President Donald Trump signs visitors book as first lady Melania Trump watches during their visit to the Taj Mahal, the 17th century monument to love in Agra, India, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.
U.S. President Donald Trump signs visitors book as first lady Melania Trump watches during their visit to the Taj Mahal, the 17th century monument to love in Agra, India, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.

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.

The clashes have left 13 people dead, including a policeman, and over 150 injured – including at least 70 with gunshot wounds. The worst rioting in the Indian capital in two decades has also seen some shops being set on fire and looted.

In response to a VOA question about the clashes, Trump said at a Tuesday news conference that he and Modi touched on the topic, but not about the violence.

"We did talk about religious freedom and I will say the prime minister was incredible on what he told me," Trump said. "He wants people to have religious freedom."


On his first day in India, Trump 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.

Speaking Tuesday to reporters, Trump reiterated his readiness: "Anything I can do to mediate, I would do."

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.