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In ‘last-minute’ decision, Trump to now share stage with Modi in Houston gala

The move appears to be an attempt by Trump to woo nearly 5 lakh members of the Indian diaspora ahead of the US Presidential election in 2020.

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New Delhi: US President Donald Trump will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Houston in Texas on 22 September, during the very first leg of Modi’s visit, sources have told ThePrint.

Prime Minister Modi, who will be leaving for the US on 20 September, will not just address the Indian diaspora there as part of a mega event in Houston called ‘Howdy! Modi’ but will also call on top American CEOs of the energy sector in Texas. Trump is likely to attend even that with the Prime Minister, according to sources.

This comes as a “last-minute decision” by Trump as both leaders will be meeting again at the UN General Assembly meet later that week in New York, sources said.

Apart from showing off to world that he has “got Trump’s back” on Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, Modi will also be granting a platform to the US president to appeal to over 5,00,000 members of the Indian diaspora ahead of what is expected to be a tightly-contested US Presidential election in 2020, said another source.

This show of bonhomie between Modi and Trump will happen even as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will be in the US at the time for the UNGA meet. Khan is expected to also meet Trump over a luncheon and high-tea during his visit there.

Also read: At Howdy, Modi! event in US, PM to draw ‘largest-ever’ crowd after Pope

India to look to end trade standoff

At the separate bilateral meeting in New York on 25 September, India is expected to hand over a “lucrative” trade deal to Washington in an effort to end the rising trade tensions between the two countries.

Under the much-awaited trade package, India is expected to lower import duty on high-end automobiles, mobile phones and other high-end telecom products. New Delhi is also expected to relax norms that will allow easy entry of US agricultural products and medical devices into the Indian market.

India has become a major importer of energy from America and it seeks to enhance that aspect of the relationship even further by allowing US energy firms to invest here.

The Trump administration is so upset with India on the trade front that it has not convened a meeting of the annual US-India Trade Policy Forum since 2017. It was last held in Washington in October 2017.

Major defence deals in the offing

During the visit, Modi is also expected to give his nod for defence deals worth $10-12 billion with the US as India remains Washington’s ‘Major Defence Partner’.

India has plans to buy multi-role helicopters, air missile systems, drones and more Apache attack helicopters from the US.

The latest deal being finalised by India under the foreign military sales programme of the US is the acquisition of 10 more Poseidon-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft for over $3 billion.

Earlier this month, eight Apache AH-64E (I) helicopters were inducted into the IAF at the Pathankot frontline airbase near the India-Pakistan border.

While the leaders may agree to these deals in-principle during Modi’s trip, they will be signed during the upcoming 2+2 talks that will take place later this year when the defence and foreign ministers of both sides meet.

Trump and Modi had last met in August on the sidelines of the G-7 meet in Biarritz, France, where India was able to silence America on its intentions to “mediate” the Kashmir dispute. New Delhi had then offered to expand trade and business ties that would help Trump to “Make America Great Again”.

Also read: On trade tariff, India & US need to place strategy over economy keeping domestic politics out


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