Trump urges India to ‘promote peace’ in South Asia

US President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive for a ‘Namaste Trump,’ event at Sardar Patel Stadium, in Ahmedabad, India. (AP Photo)
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Updated 24 February 2020

Trump urges India to ‘promote peace’ in South Asia

  • Trump said India had an important leadership role to play in shaping a better future as it took on greater responsibility in solving problems and promoting peace
  • Trump also praised India’s neighbor Pakistan for cracking down on terror and militants, saying the US had a very good relationship with Pakistan

NEW DELHI:  US President Donald Trump called on New Delhi to play the role of peacemaker in South Asia and work toward resolving conflicts, while also praising the country for its “syncretic and tolerant nature.”
The president, who made the remarks on the first day of his first official visit to India, was addressing a crowd of nearly 150,000 in the western city of Ahmedabad on Monday. The “Namaste Trump” event was held at a newly built cricket stadium.
He said India had an important leadership role to play in shaping a better future as it took on greater responsibility in solving problems and promoting peace in the “incredible” region.
“Your nation has been admired because Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Christians worship side by side,” he said. “India’s unity is an inspiration to the world.”
But in the same breath he also praised India’s neighbor Pakistan for cracking down on terror and militants, saying the US had a very good relationship with Pakistan. Islamabad’s drive against terror groups meant there were signs of “big progress” with Pakistan. “We are hopeful for reduced tensions, greater stability and the future of harmony for all the nations of South Asia,” he added.
After landing in Ahmedabad, which is the capital of Gujarat and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, on Monday morning, Trump and his family traveled to the Gandhi Ashram, the house of India’s founding father Mahatma Gandhi, to pay tribute to the country’s famous freedom fighter.
From there the president was given a tour of the cricket stadium on the outskirts of the city where both Trump and Modi addressed the gathering.
Thousands of people lined the 20 km stretch between the airport and the stadium. They had come from different parts of the country to welcome the visiting dignitary.
“America loves India, America respects India and America would always be the loyal friend of India,” Trump said in his opening remarks to a cheering crowd.
There was an unmistakable camaraderie between Modi and Trump, who greeted each other as friends at the event and took turns in showering praise on each other.
Trump said: “Modi, you are not just the pride of Gujarat, but you are a living example that with hard work Indians can achieve anything they want.”
Modi said: “India-US relations are no longer just another partnership. It is a far greater and closer relationship. One is land of the free, the other believes the world is one family. India and the USA are natural partners. Not only in Indo-Pacific but in the whole world we can provide peace. Trump brings an opportunity to India,” he added.
In his 30-minute speech, Trump said that he would sign a defense deal worth $3 billion in New Delhi on Tuesday, adding that both sides were committed to defend their citizens from radical Islamic terrorism.
He also hoped that India and the US would sign a “fantastic trade deal” in the near future.
Trump’s family visited the Taj Mahal in Agra on Monday evening. On Tuesday, Modi and Trump are expected to hold bilateral talks and sign a number of agreements. The president is being accompanied by his wife, daughter and son-in-law.
Experts told Arab News that while they believed Trump was showing greater bonhomie toward Modi, the US leader was concerned that New Delhi was not fully pulling its weight in South Asia.
“Washington is clearly concerned that New Delhi is not acting as a peacemaker in South Asia and not playing a role of big brother in South Asia where it should be trying to bridge differences between nations,” Prof. Siddiq Wahid, of Shiv Nadar University, told Arab News. “Trump’s statement also indicates that the US considers India not as a big Asian player but limits its role as a South Asia player by asking it to play a role of peacemaker in the region.”
Pranay Kotasthane, from the Takshashila Institution, said Trump had avoided mentioning “prickly issues” for the Modi government.
But the president’s positive remarks on Pakistan showed that he needed the help of India’s rival for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan to happen, he added.
The US and the Taliban are expected to sign a peace deal on Feb. 29 after 18 months of intense negotiations. A major part of the deal is the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

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