Trump, First Lady Melania likely to land directly in Ahmedabad

Wednesday 19th February 2020 04:43 EST

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will land directly in Gujarat on February 24 around 12 noon. According to reliable sources, President Trump is likely to spend 3.5 hours in Ahmedabad. His Ahmedabad itinerary details have not yet been released, but according to information, there will be no engagements except a visit to Sabarmati Ashram and inauguration of the Motera stadium for the VVIP guests.

Motera stadium, rechristened as the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium, is the world’s largest cricket stadium built at the cost of $100 million. The old Motera stadium with a capacity of 53,000 people was demolished in 2015. The new stadium, built completely as per the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will now accommodate 1,10,000 people. President Trump and PM Modi are likely to recreate the remarkable magic of their chemistry with a hug at this stadium on February 24.

PM Modi is returning the favour of the HowdyModi event that President Trump organised for the Indian Prime Minister in Texas where over 40,000 people greeted Modi. However, in Ahmedabad, more than double of the people present in Texas will be there at Motera stadium greeting President Trump. During Trump's visit to Sabarmati Ashram, entry will be restricted. However at Motera stadium, there will be more than 1,00,000 people from various parts of Gujarat cheering up President Trump when he inaugurates the stadium in a traditional Indian manner by lighting a lamp.

Onwards to Agra, Delhi

Sources said that around 3.30 pm, President Trump, the First Lady, and few dignitaries are likely to depart from Ahmedabad international airport. Interestingly, President Trump may fly down directly to Agra on February 24. The Ahmedabad-Agra route details are being worked out, sources said, adding that besides Air Force One, there could be VH 3D sea planes and White Hawks flying from Ahmedabad to Agra. President Trump and First Lady will visit the Taj Mahal on February 24 evening, then depart for Delhi where they will be given a magnificent dinner reception by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Govt machinery in top gear

Crowd management is emerging as the biggest headache for organizers and security personnel during Donald Trump's visit at the Motera stadium. It is estimated that with 120 metal detector door frames and 250 handheld devices, it will take approximately 2 to 3 hours to complete security checks for 110,000 people who will be entering the stadium. A large chunk of the crowd is coming from nearby districts of Patan, Sabarkantha, Aravalli, Gandhinagar districts and outskirts of Ahmedabad. There is tremendous pressure on BJP party workers to gather numbers. Children as spectators will be avoided within the stadium, unless they are part of cultural performers, said a senior Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) official.

“Spectators from outside Ahmedabad district will be given preferential treatment and will be taken inside the stadium first,” said a senior BJP leader in the AMC. Government officials, including mamlatdars in the collectorate and assistant municipal commissioners have been given targets to bring spectators.

“Each assistant municipal commissioner in every zone has been asked to gather at least 220 to 250 people for the roadshow by contracting NGOs and religious institutions. Incentives like banners of the NGO will be allowed to be put up along the VIP route,” said a senior AMC official. In all space for 2,300 buses and more than 6,000 cars have earmarked in 28 plots, most of which are private. “People have happily given us their plots as the AMC is clearing their plots of debris and garbage, levelling them and watering them for parking purposes. It’s a win-win deal,” says the AMC official.

Visit set to cost over £10 mn

Expenditure, it appears, is definitely not a constraint, as the state government readies to roll out the red carpet for Trump, who will visit Ahmedabad for three hours on February 24. According to rough estimates, the state government will spend upwards of £10 million to put its best foot forward for the high-profile visit. Top sources involved in planning and execution of preparations for Trump's Ahmedabad visit said that CM Vijay Rupani has instructed that budget should not be a constraint in hosting Trump.

The AMC and Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) are revamping roads and beautifying the city for Trump's visit, will jointly spend nearly £10 million. This includes £6 million for resurfacing of 17 roads and laying a dedicated 1.5 km road for Trump to travel back to the airport after opening Motera stadium.

Mini trade deal unlikely

The possibility of a mini trade agreement between India and the US during Trump’s visit later this month seems unlikely even as foreign minister S Jaishankar met US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to exchange notes and take stock of the bilateral relationship. “Good to see secretary Pompeo at MSC 2020. Allowed us to take stock of the relationship as we look forward to President Donald Trump's visit,” Jaishankar tweeted. The visit, which will see Trump being feted in Ahmedabad and Delhi, is likely to cover important strategic ground but the trade negotiations have run aground as both sides failed to make the last mile.

The Indian side said the US was adding new items to the list. The US wants India to open markets for pizza cheese and whey protein among other things, which are new additions, prompting India to say that the goalposts are being moved. The US wants India to have a level playing field for international digital services like credit cards while the Indian government has delayed negotiations due to American unwillingness to allow for testing of DDGS (dry distilled grain soluble) poultry feed for ‘live’ GM components.

The trade deal is important to Trump as he heads into elections and is keen to show that his tough stance with allies and rivals has improved the terms of commerce for the US. The situation also presents an opportunity as the US President would like to have a deal in hand. Though India is not as crucial as China, a trade pact can add to Trump’s list of “achievements” that reflect a better deal for US products.

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