Trump’s India visit to coincide with impeachment process

Thursday 16th January 2020 03:43 EST

US President Donald Trump is planning his maiden India visit in February, an official said, in a trip that may coincide with an impeachment trial that is likely to get underway in Washington next week. The two countries are in touch to work out mutually convenient dates for the visit, according to a senior Indian government official, who asked not to be identified.

Trump and Modi are expected to sign an agreement on civil aviation apart from the long-pending bilateral trade deal. The visit will come as India faces the slowest economic growth since 2009 and rising social unrest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which has been pushing its Hindu nationalist agenda through new laws.

The visit follows Modi’s trip to the US in September where he walked hand-in-hand with Trump at a rock-concert like event in Houston in a move analysts expected would help to ease trade tensions between the two countries. Trump last year turned down an invitation to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.

According to a report, the Indian invitation to Trump was reiterated during the '2+2' dialogue between the defence and foreign ministry officials of the two countries. "The Indian invitation to Trump was reiterated last month by defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar, when they called on the US President at the White House after their meeting with their American counterparts Mark Esper and Mike Pompeo. The US president gave a positive response...” the report added.

A key focal point of a proposed Trump visit to India would be a trade deal between the two nations. India-US trade ties hit a rough patch in June 2019, when Trump cancelled India's preferential trade status. The government hopes Trump will announce a revocation of that [preferential trade] decision during the visit.

Other deals could involve pacts on civil aviation, data localisation and e-commerce, which have been key US demands. The main point of uncertainty over the proposed visit will be the ongoing impeachment proceedings against him. According to a report, the date of the visit, currently scheduled around February 24, may have to be shifted to accommodate the Senate vote on his impeachment motion.

Modi, Trump review regional security

Exchanging New Year greetings, Prime Minister Modi and Trump discussed way to enhance Indo-US cooperation in areas of mutual interest and reviewed regional security issues. The telephonic conversation came on the back of tensions in the Gulf region, days after the killing of top Iranian commander General Qasem Soleimani in a US strike.

“Today, President Donald J Trump spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to exchange New Year’s greetings,” the White House said in a statement. “The leaders discussed ways to further strengthen the United States-India strategic partnership in 2020, and they also reviewed the regional security matters,” the White House said. It didn’t elaborate on the “regional security matters” discussed by Modi and Trump.

Modi, according to a PMO statement, “stated that India-US relations, which are built on trust, mutual respect and understanding, have grown from strength to strength”.

“The Prime Minister highlighted the significant progress made in deepening the strategic partnership between the two countries in the previous year and expressed his desire to continue to work with President Trump for enhancing cooperation in all areas of mutual interest,” it said.

The telephonic call was the first contact between the two leaders in the New Year and possibly the first for President Trump with an international leader on his return to the White House after his year-end vacation.

Trump expressed satisfaction at the achievements in the Indo-US relationship in the last few years and reiterated his readiness for further deepening of bilateral cooperation. In 2019, Modi and Trump met four times, including their joint appearance at the ‘Howdy Modi!’ event in Houston.

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