Fillip to Indo-US defence, strategic ties as Trump comes calling

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
A security man stands guard near a bill board showing pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump, near Taj Mahal ahead of US President Donald Trumps maiden visit to India, in Agra, Sunday. Photo: PTI

New Delhi/Ahmedabad: US President Donald Trump, accompanied by his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and top brass of his administration, will kick-start an eagerly awaited tour of India on Monday, a visit expected to significantly ramp up bilateral defence and strategic ties but unlikely to produce tangible outcome in resolving thorny issues like trade tariffs.

The nearly 36-hour-long visit by Trump is also set to send across a clear message of growing congruence of interests on major geopolitical developments in the region and beyond, particularly when China has been expanding its military and economic clout.

Focus on trade

In their talks on Tuesday, Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are likely to focus on a wide variety of bilateral and regional issues including trade and investment, defence and security, counter-terrorism, energy security, religious freedom, proposed peace deal with Taliban in Afghanistan and situation in the Indo-Pacific, according to Indian and US officials.

The US president's visit to India comes at a time when the country has been witnessing wide-spread protests against a new citizenship law, and strain in New Delhi's ties with Islamabad over the Kashmir issue.

"President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private. He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration," a senior official at the White House said.

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
Children make paintings ahead of US President Donald Trump's maiden India visit in Mumbai. PTI

Notwithstanding wrinkles in ties, the two sides are likely to showcase Trump's maiden visit to India as a reflection of growing global strategic partnership between the two democracies.

On Thursday, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said around five pacts providing for cooperation in areas of intellectual property rights, trade facilitation and homeland security are expected to be finalised during Trump's visit.

A major highlight will be the likely signing of a deal to procure 24 MH-60 Romeo helicopters by India from the US at a cost of $2.6 billion. Another contract to acquire six AH-64E Apache helicopters for $800 million from the US is also on the table.

As hopes for sealing the much-anticipated trade deal faded away, Kumar said India does not want to create "artificial deadlines". The US has been seeking greater access to India's huge poultry and dairy markets. However, India has some reservations over it.

India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said ties between India and the US have evolved to one of the "most consequential" relationships today and both countries have unprecedented convergence of interests.

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
Police personnel keep vigil at Sardar Patel Stadium, commonly known as Motera Stadium, which will host 'Namaste Trump' event during US President Donald Trump's maiden visit to India in Ahmedabad. PTI

He said Trump and his delegation will be treated to India's rich and diverse cultural heritage during his visit to Ahmedabad in a manner that has few parallels in the country or elsewhere.

Trump, who is seeking renomination in the US presidential elections in November, and his delegation will arrive on Monday around noon in Ahmedabad in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat.

'Namaste Trump'

"India looks forward to welcoming @POTUS @realDonaldTrump. It is an honour that he will be with us tomorrow, starting with the historic programme in Ahmedabad," Modi wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to greet Trump in a road show in Ahmedabad before he arrives at the newly-built Motera cricket stadium, which has a capacity of over 1 lakh people, for the 'Namaste Trump' event.

As many as 28 stages representing the various parts of the country have been set up along Trump's route from the airport to Motera stadium, in what is being called as the India Road Show.

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
Border Security Force camel contingent patrol a street ahead of US President Donald Trumps maiden visit to India in Ahmedabad. PTI

The entire city has been spruced up to welcome Trump, his family members and the high-powered delegation comprising Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien and Energy Secretary Dan Broulliette.

'Namaste Trump' will be similar to the landmark 'Howdy, Modi!' event hosted by the Indian-American community in honour of Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Houston in September 2019, said an official.

Trump will also visit the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will accompany Trump to the Ashram, which is closely associated with Mahatma Gandhi and India's freedom struggle, in the midst of their joint roadshow from the international airport, City Police Commissioner Ashish Bhatia said on Sunday.

Earlier, confusion prevailed over Trump's visit to the Ashram.

Delhi visit

From Ahmedabad, the US president will travel to Agra to have a glimpse of the iconic Taj Mahal. The Trump family will spend about an hour at the Taj Mahal before sunset. Then they will leave for Delhi for the main leg of the visit.

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
Security Forces patrol the premises of Taj Mahal. PTI

On the morning of February 25, Trump and the First Lady would be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

From there, they would go to Rajghat to pay homage at the 'samadhi' of Mahatma Gandhi.

It would be followed by restricted and delegation-level talks between Trump and Modi at Hyderabad House.

Prime Minister Modi would host a lunch for the US president following the talks.

In the afternoon, Trump is expected to attend certain private events at the US Embassy, including a roundtable with industry representatives.

In the evening, the US president will meet President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

A banquet will be hosted by Kovind. President Trump would depart from India later that evening.

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
Rapid Action Force personnel patrol a street ahead of US President Donald Trump's maiden visit to India in Ahmedabad. PTI

Massive security cover in place

Over 10,000 policemen from different parts of Gujarat have been deployed at strategic locations in Ahmedabad as part of the elaborate security arrangements.

The massive police deployment is in addition to officials of the United States Secret Service, and India's elite National Security Guards (NSG) and Special Protection Group who would also be guarding the US president's visit.

The Secret Service agents along with other US security personnel have already arrived with their equipment and vehicles in at least four cargo planes during the last one week.

Police will be using the anti-drone technology to neutralise any suspicious drone on the route, officials said, adding that an anti-sniper team of the NSG will also be stationed along the roadshow route, starting from the airport till the Motera stadium via Indira bridge.

With the help of sophisticated hand-held devices, the entire route has been scanned several times by the Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad.

Police and other security agencies have also conducted a rehearsal on the entire roadshow route using over 100 vehicles, they said.

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
UP Anti-Terror Squad commandos patrol a street near Taj Mahal ahead of US President Donald Trumps maiden visit to India. PTI

Along with police personnel, who will be led by 25 IPS officers, teams of the Rapid Action Force, State Reserve Police, Chetak Commando and Anti-Terrorist Squad are also deployed at strategic locations.

Before the US president's arrival, at least four C17 Globemaster cargo planes of the US Air Force have landed at the Ahmedabad international airport with security and communication equipment, Trumps' official helicopter 'Marine One' and a mammoth SUV-like vehicle.

The giant SUV, which would be part of Trump's cavalcade during his 22-km long roadshow on February 24, is known as WHCA Roadrunner. WHCA stands for White House Communications Agency.

The Roadrunner vehicle, also known as the MC2V (mobile command and control vehicle), serves as a mobile communication hub for the presidential motorcade by encrypting duplex radio and streaming video, which in-turn is beamed to a military satellite that sends the data back to the ground.

Unprecedented security measures in ITC Maurya, Delhi

ITC Maurya, the hotel where US President Donald Trump will check-in on Monday, has been brought under an unprecedented security cover with anti-sabotage teams involving the Army and paramilitary conducting checks on the routes to be taken by the visiting dignitary.

Anti-drone detachment of NSG, snipers, elite SWAT commandos, kite catchers, canine units, sharp shooters on high-rise buildings and Parakram vans have also been deployed along the routes and areas in and around the hotel where Trump will be staying.

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
A view of the wall built reportedly to hide a stretch of slums in Ahmedabad during US President Donald Trump's maiden India visit. PTI

Police personnel from six districts have been deployed for the security arrangements and nearly 40 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CRPF) have been pressed into action.

Hundreds of high-definition CCTV cameras with night vision have been installed across the Sardar Patel Marg where hotel ITC Maurya is located to monitor the situation round-the-clock, the officials said.

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
Kite-maker Jagmohan Kanojia poses with kites decorated with pictures of US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ahead of Trump's visit to India in Amritsar. PTI

In view of the spiralling tensions between Iran and the US, there is a higher security threat this time and the agencies are more "cautious and alert" than ever, the sources said.

The route leading to a Delhi government school where US first lady Melania Trump is scheduled to pay a visit will also be under a high security cover.

Trees have been trimmed according to the directions of the security agencies as part of the protocol.

Meetings have also been held with US security agents on the elaborate security arrangements in place.

At the ITC Maurya, a three-layer security will be in place.

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
Convoy rehearsal ahead of US President Donald Trump's maiden visit to India in Ahmedabad. PTI

The hotel, located in Diplomatic Enclave in Chanakyapuri, will have police personnel in plain clothes patrolling every floor.

Delhi Police's security wing personnel will form part of the inner cordon that will work in close coordination with the United States Secret Service.

The security wing of the Delhi Police is a specialised unit tasked with the security of VIPs and visiting foreign dignitaries.

The second layer of security will be deployed around the hotel's lobby area, parking, lawn area and the pool area, while the third one will comprise police personnel from the district police.

There is a large stretch of green ridge area opposite the hotel and security personnel will be deployed there as well.

Even at the neighbouring Taj Palace hotel, security personnel are maintaining a tight vigil.

Donald Trump kick-starts India visit on Monday to solidify Indo-US ties
A US military helicopter flies over a hoarding welcoming US President Donald Trump in Ahmedabad. PTI

The floor where the Grand Presidential Suite is located at the ITC Maurya is out of bounds for most hotel staff owing to the elaborate security arrangements.

Sources said security arrangements at the hotel have been underway for the last two weeks with NSG commandos and Delhi Police personnel surveying every floor on a daily basis. Officials from the US embassy are also monitoring the preparations with all details being kept under wraps.

The sources added that the hotel will be out of bounds for other guests during the time Trump and his entourage will be there, and all the 438 rooms of the five-star property have been booked.

(With PTI inputs)

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