WASHINGTON, D.C.— With his love of huge rallies, President Donald Trump is apparently looking forward to basking in the adulation of “millions and millions” of Indians when he visits India. He is particularly excited about the ‘Kem Chho, Trump!’ rally in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat where the event will take place at the newly built Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, which is expected to draw double the 50,000 people who flocked to the ‘Howdy, Modi! rally at the NRG Stadium in Houston in September.
A day after the White House announced on Feb. 10 that Trump would travel to New Delhi and Ahmedabad, on Feb. 24 and 25, accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, the President told reporters that he “just spoke with Prime Minister Modi,” who had told him about the hundreds of thousands of Indians who would be there to welcome him in Ahmedabad.
He quipped that now he will "not feel good" about the size of the rallies that he addresses in the U.S., because they are usually in the “range of between 40,000 to 50,000.”
Referring to his conversation with Modi over the weekend, Trump said, “He (Modi) said we will have millions and millions of people. My only problem is that last night (during a rally in New Hampshire) we probably had 40 or 50,000 people...”
Consequently, he joked, “I'm not going to feel so good... There will be five to seven million people just from the airport to the new stadium (in Ahmedabad).”
"And you know (it) is the largest stadium in the world. He's (Modi) building it now. It's almost complete and it's the largest in the world," Trump said.
The stadium being built at an estimated cost of $100 million, with a seating capacity for 100,000 is being touted as the world's largest cricket stadium surpassing the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Australia.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham in announcing Trump’s first trip to India as President, said, “During a phone call over the weekend, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi agreed the trip will further strengthen the United States-India strategic partnership and highlight the strong and enduring bonds between the American and Indian people.”
Before the ‘Kem Chho, Trump!’ event, the U.S. President, along with Prime Minister Modi, are slated to participate in a roadshow as well as visit Sabarmati Ashram to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. The roadshow has been planned along a 10-kilometer decked-up stretch from the Ahmedabad airport to the Sabarmati Ashram.
During his gaggle with reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said that there was also a likelihood that both countries may ink a trade deal if it’s the right one.
Meanwhile, the First Lady Melania Trump also said that she’s “excited” over her trip to India, and thanked Prime Minister Modi for the “kind invitation.”
In a tweet, she said, "Looking forward to visiting Ahmedabad and New Delhi later this month," and added that “President Trump and I are excited for the trip and to celebrate the close ties between the USA and India.”
Melania Trump was responding to a tweet by Modi earlier where he had described President Trump and the First Lady's visit to India as a "very special one".
Modi tweeted that "India will accord a memorable welcome to our esteemed guests. This visit is a very special one and it will go a long way in further cementing India-USA friendship.”
On Feb. 13, Larry Kudlow, Economic Advisor to Trump acknowledged that high level talks between Washington and New Delhi were ongoing, when asked in a trade deal was in the offing during Trump’s visit.
And, when asked about the growing imports of American oil by India, Kudlow said that the U.S. can take care of all of India’s energy needs and spoke of the massive potential in this sector.
"Could be, hope so. Let's remove all the barriers. They (Indians) need energy. We have the energy,” he said, and recalled, "When we had our bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister Modi, I said, you give me a number (to export energy from the US to India) and I'll meet it.”
The U.S. export of energy to India in the past few years has gone from zero to $8 billion in 2019 and this year it is expected to increase to $10 billion.
India’s new Ambassador to the U.S., Taranjit Singh Sandhu, speaking at a reception in his honor on Feb. 14, hosted by the U.S.-India Business Council, said, "Our energy trade touched close to $8 billion last year, and mind you, this was zero, a few years ago.”
"In fact, in 2013, I testified before the House Energy Committee advocating U.S. energy exports to India. In 2017, our leadership decided to elevate our energy partnership to a strategic energy partnership,” he said.
Sandhu said, "Within 10 days, we will witness the historic visit of President of United States to India. This visit will help to solidify our partnership across all spheres.”
He argued that the India-U.S. relationship “is between people of the two countries and not just two governments,” and declared, “The strong and enduring bonds between the American and Indian people have been the foundation of our relationship.”
"During the forthcoming visit of the President of the United States to India, you will witness the warmth of Indian people for the United States," Sandhu said.
Alice Wells, the Trump administration’s point person for South Asia, speaking at the same event, predicted by Trump and Modi during their summit in New Delhi, would outline an ambitious vision for the next chapter of this strategic relationship between the U.S. and India.
"We are approaching an important inflection point in the U.S.-India relationship," she said.
Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said, "When President Trump and Prime Minister Modi meet later this month in front of thousands of roaring fans, they're going to outline an ambitious vision for the next chapter of this natural alliance," and recalled that two decades ago, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during a state visit to the U.S., had called India and U.S. as "natural allies".
She said, "This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Prime Minister Vajpayee's historic visit to Washington during which he invoked that famous phrase, natural allies. We have come such a long way over the last two decades and are turning that vision into a reality.”
Pointing out that Trump and Modi had developed a very special rapport, Wells said, "President Trump is eager to travel to India to make his mark on this very important relationship.”