New Delhi: US President Donald Trump refused to weigh in on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) Tuesday, saying he would leave the issue up to India. Addressing a press conference on the last day of his two-day India trip, he also offered to “do what I can” to help on Kashmir and condemned Indian tariffs on American goods.
The CAA is believed to be the trigger for the ongoing communal riots in Delhi, which have claimed 10 lives since Sunday. The law, seen by many as discriminatory against Muslims, is a subject of much concern in India. Asked about the Delhi violence, Trump said he hadn’t discussed it with PM Modi. “It is up to India,” he added.
Ahead of Trump’s visit, unnamed White House officials had been quoted as saying that the US President would raise the issue with PM Modi.
Speaking to the media, Trump said he did speak with PM Modi on the issue but won’t discuss it.
“I won’t discuss the CAA, I’ll leave that up to India and hopefully they will do the right thing …” he added. “The PM said he wants people to have religious freedom. They have worked really hard on it … I heard about the individual attacks but I did not discuss it. It is up to India.”
‘Want a trade deal that’s reciprocal’
However, the US President adopted a stronger tone as he waded into matters of trade, saying New Delhi had to end its practice of imposing tariffs on American goods.
“I know the problem of tariffs, previous (Indian) administrations have done, and that continues. I know that. But you can’t do that, can’t do that,” Trump said. Talking about the much-awaited trade deal between the nations, which remains stuck on account of fierce differences on some issues, he added, “If a trade deal has to happen, it will happen later this year.”
He said getting a trade deal with China, signed in January, had been difficult as well, but expressed hope that New Delhi and Washington would be able to tide over their challenges too.
Trump also highlighted a concern he often rakes up in references to India and China, the “tremendous (trade) deficit” to the tune of $24 billion with New Delhi — which means Indian exports to the US exceed its imports by $24 billion.
“I want a trade deal that is reciprocal. The US has to be treated fairly … India is probably the highest tariff nation in the world,” the US President said after his bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He also talked about Indian tariffs on the iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycles, which Trump has been trying to get reduced since he came to office.
The US and India were planning to conclude a small trade package ahead of Trump’s visit, but the talks fell through. Now, trade talks between the sides are only likely to progress after the US presidential elections later this year.
‘Will do what I can to help on Kashmir’
On the issue of Kashmir and tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad, Trump said he was close to both PM Modi as well as his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.
“We talked a lot about it at length today. No question it is a problem. They are working on it. I said I will do whatever I can do to help because my relationship with both gentlemen (Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan PM Imran Khan) is so good,” he said.
He also said he discussed the Taliban peace deal, which is likely to be signed on 29 February in Doha, with India.