Basking in adulation from a massive, colorful crowd, US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday lavished each other with praise in a reaffirmation of US-India ties as the subcontinent poured on the pageantry in a joyful welcome for the US president.
More than 100,000 people packed into the world’s largest cricket stadium in Modi’s home state to give Trump the biggest rally crowd of his political career.
The event was the pinnacle of the day’s enviable trio of presidential photo-opportunities, sandwiched between Trump visits to a former home of Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi and a planned tour of the Taj Mahal.
Nearly everyone in the newly constructed stadium in Ahmedabad in western India sported a white cap with the name of the event, “Namaste, Trump” (Welcome, Trump), and roared for the introductions of both leaders.
Embarking on a whirlwind 36-hour visit, Trump opened his speech by declaring that he “had traveled 8,000 miles [12,875km]” to deliver the message that “America loves India, America respects India and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people.”
The boisterous scene featured musicians on camels and a musical medley of Bollywood hits and Trump’s campaign rally playlist, including numerous Elton John songs that seemed to puzzle most of the crowd.
Trump basked in the raucous reception that has eluded him on many foreign trips, some of which have featured massive protests and icy handshakes from world leaders.
Ahmedabad bustled as Trump arrived, its streets teeming with people eager to catch a glimpse of the US president. Newly cleaned roads and planted flowers dotted the roads amid hundreds of billboards featuring the president and first lady Melania Trump.
Thousands lined his motorcade route, shy of the up to 10 million that Trump speculated would be on hand.
His first stop was Gandhi’s home, where Trump donned a prayer shawl and removed his shoes to create the incongruous image of a grandiose president quietly walking through the humble ashram. He inspected the spinning wheel used by the famed pacifist and looked at a statue of monkeys representing Gandhi’s mantra of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” before departing for the mega-rally at the Sardar Patel Stadium.
The stadium was packed with revelers, many of whom sported Trump and Modi masks, but scores of people, particularly those sitting in the sun, streamed out before Trump finished his 27-minute speech.
Trump lavished praise on both Modi and the democracy he leads, touting an effort to lift residents out of extreme poverty, saying “India gives hope to all of humanity.”
Trump is scheduled to conclude his whirlwind visit to India today with a day in New Delhi, including meetings with Modi over stalled trade talks and a gala dinner.
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