US Prez Trump may visit India from Feb 21 to 24, trade in focus


(Online Desk)

US President Donald Trump is set to visit India between February 21 and February 24, with a day devoted to a joint public function with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, possibly in Ahmedabad although the final programme is yet to be sealed, according to highly placed sources, who keep track of these matters.

Sources also claim that the US government has booked Delhi’s ITC Maurya Hotel for the forthcoming presidential visit from Feb 21-24, including the hotel’s presidential suite. The ITC Maurya has hosted other US Presidents, including Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

The visit comes at a time when Pakistan is intensifying its efforts to attack India at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva from February 24 to March 30. At the session, Pakistan is expected to go beyond the nullification of Article 370, and add the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, a proposed all-India National Register of Citizens, and the National Population Register 2020 to its list of talking points to argue that Indian Muslims are under threat in the Modi regime, Indian officials said.

Though Pakistan’s new allies Malaysia and Turkey are not part of the 47-member body, it Pakistan will try to get an Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) resolution in its favour to force a discussion in the global body, they added. While the Pakistan delegation at UNHRC is expected to be headed by foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Indian counter will be led by Secretary (West) Vikas Swarup.

Officials said that the highlight of Trump’s India visit is expected to be a trade deal, and the two leaders will also discuss China, the Indo-Pacific, Afghanistan, Iran and terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

They added that India’s expectation from the interaction is the reinstatement of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) scheme, which allowed zero tariffs on exports worth $5.6 billion to the US. India is likely to roll back its retaliatory tariffs post the withdrawal of GSP. While US wants India to buy around USD $6 billion worth of farm goods in order to cut down the trade deficit, New Delhi would like to get assurances on oil or shale gas to strike the deal.

Besides exchanging political notes on the global issues, India, the US and the ASEAN countries are looking to enforcing the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as well as the Indo-Pacific.

The government officials said President Trump is also expected to share his vision on Afghanistan. Though it is unlikely that there will be any new military hardware deal during the Trump visit, India is expected to buy Apache attack helicopters, multi-purpose helicopters for the Indian Navy, and P8I multi-mission aircraft from American defence contractors. The acquisition of Predator B armed drones from the US is also on cards. (Curtesy: HT)