After the US Senate cleared Trump of all charges in the historic impeachment trial, the White House on Tuesday announced the president’s visit to India from 24-25 February. Interestingly enough, the announcement has a personal touch, indicating the bonhomie between Trump and Modi.
“President (Donald Trump) will travel to India from February 24-25 to visit Prime Minister @narendramodi", reads a tweet by the White House. “The trip will further strengthen the US-India strategic partnership and highlight the strong and enduring bonds between the American and Indian people".
President @realDonaldTrump & @FLOTUS will travel to India from February 24-25 to visit Prime Minister @narendramodi!— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 10, 2020
The trip will further strengthen the U.S.-India strategic partnership & highlight the strong & enduring bonds between the American & Indian people. 🇺🇸 🇮🇳
India's External Affairs Ministry, in a simultaneous announcement said on Tuesday that President Trump, besides his official engagements in New Delhi would visit Gujarat, Modi’s home state, and also interact with a wide cross-section of Indian society.
“The visit will provide an opportunity for the two leaders to review progress in bilateral ties and further strengthen our strategic partnership,” said the ministry.
Trade is expected to be one of the main issues on the table. There have been several rounds of talks between the trade ministers of both countries, the latest in New York in December 2019.
Trump had in the past complained about the high tariffs imposed on American products by New Delhi. Differences had come to such an impasse that Washington terminated India’s designation as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme on 5 June 2019, which allowed New Delhi to export $5.7 billion worth of duty-free goods in 2019. India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products. New Delhi is expected to seek full restoration of the GSP during talks between the two leaders.
Washington has been seeking greater access for its farm and manufacturing products to India, and a cut on import duties for some Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products. India’s budget proposals presented in Parliament on 1 February imposed additional duties on medical devices manufactured abroad, including those from the US. This could also come up for discussions between New Delhi and Washington during the upcoming visit.
An ideological ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has in the meanwhile, come out against giving concessions on farm products to the US. Ashwini Mahajan, Chief of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, or Forum for National Self-Reliance has said that US pressure on India could be called an arm twisting exercise. “But if India concedes, this would go against the interests of the Indian people—our farmers, traders, and others", he said in a statement.
“GSP is the US’s unilateral policy gesture for developing countries and withdrawal or revoking of the same shouldn’t be ethically used in any manner whatsoever to press those countries to sacrifice their national interests including public health, employment, and livelihood", Mahajan added.