United States President Donald Trump on Monday arrived in Ahmedabad to a grand reception and said that “everybody loves Prime Minister Narendra Modi” and “America loves India” as he began his first official visit to the country at a time when relations have been strained by a trade dispute, NDTV reported.

Addressing a huge crowd in 1,10,000-seat Motera stadium at the “Namaste Trump” event, the US president called Modi his “special friend” and said India held a special place in the hearts of Americans. “Melania and I travelled 8,000 miles around the world to deliver the message America loves India, America respects India and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people,” Trump said.

Much of Trump’s speech contained effusive praise for Modi and India. “The rise of India in the last seven decades has been remarkable... The pace at which it has grown in the last two decades phenomenal,” he said. “The people of India are an inspiration for the rest of the world. Story of the Indian nation is a tale of extraordinary diversity, world’s largest democracy, strong and noble people.”

The president also said Modi is not just the pride of Gujarat but also a living example that with hard work Indians can achieve anything they want. “Everybody loves him...but I will tell you this...he is very tough,” Trump said.

The president spoke about a “fantastic trade deal” between the two countries and announced a defence deal worth $3-billion. “We are working on a very comprehensive trade deal between India and the United States... one that will benefit both nations,” he said. “India is a very large market for US exports and US is India’s largest market in terms of export...so a strong US is great for India. We will soon have a big trade deal, which is currently being negotiated. Prime Minister Modi is a very tough negotiator.”

India and the United States have recently hit each other with retaliatory tariffs. Over the past month, both sides have resolved to strengthen trade ties, but attempts at working out an agreement remain elusive.

Trump also praised India’s space mission Chandrayaan-2 and said, “The US is looking forward to cooperating with you. US and India will be partners in our journey to the stars.”

He also mentioned the contributions that the entertainment sector in India has made to the world. “All over the planet, people take great joy in scenes of bhangra, music, dance, romance and drama... and classic Indian films like DDLJ [Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge] and Sholay... You cheer on great cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli... This is the country that produces nearly 2,000 movies a year from the hub of genius and creativity known as Bollywood.”

The president thanked people gathered at the stadium for their spectacular hospitality. “Five months ago, the United States welcomed your great prime minister at a giant football stadium in Texas and today, India welcomes us at the world’s largest cricket stadium right here in Ahmedabad,” he said.

Before Trump’s speech, Modi said history was being scripted at Motera Stadium. “Indian US relations are no longer a just another partnership,” he told the crowd. “It’s a far greater and closer relationship.”

“It is our pleasure to welcome and greet President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner... Their visit to India shows the importance the closeness in ties we share,” he added.

After Gujarat, the Trumps left for Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Following that, they will leave for Delhi where protestors against the Citizenship Amendment Act clashed with opposing groups. Trump is expected to raise the matter of religious freedom in the country with Modi during their talks.