Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said he has agreed to start negotiations on a “big trade deal” with United States President Donald Trump. Both the leaders held extensive talks on bilateral ties on the second day of Trump’s visit to India.
“The unprecedented and historic welcome of President Trump at Motera [stadium in Ahmedabad] yesterday will always be remembered,” Modi said in a joint press statement with the American president. “We discussed every important aspect of US-India partnership, be it defence, security, energy strategic partnership, trade or people to people ties.”
Modi said the defence cooperation between two countries was reflective of rising strategic partnership between India and US. “Our commerce ministers have had positive talks on trade,” Modi said. “Both of us have decided that our teams should give legal shape to these trade talks. We also agreed to open negotiations on a big trade deal.”
Meanwhile, Trump said he and his wife Melania were awed by the majesty of India and the exceptional generosity of the people in the country. “We will always remember the magnificent welcome the citizens of your [Modi’s] home state showed us upon arrival,” he added.
On trade talks, Trump said he was “optimistic of a trade deal” with India. Both the countries had recently hit each other with retaliatory tariffs. Over the past month, they have resolved to strengthen trade ties, but attempts at working out an agreement were futile.
The American president said the primary focus of his discussions with Modi had been to form a bilateral economic relationship that would be fair and reciprocal. The two nations have made significant progress on reaching a comprehensive trade agreement, Trump said.
The United States was working productively with Pakistan to combat terrorism originating from the country, Trump said, adding that the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or QUAD was being “revitalised”. “In our discussions, Prime Minister Modi and I affirmed the two countries’ commitment to protecting our citizens from radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump said, according to Hindustan Times. “Together, the Prime Minister and I are revitalising the QUAD initiative – with the US, India, Australia and Japan.”
The US president said they expanded the defence cooperation with agreements for India to purchase more than $3-billion worth advanced American military equipment, ANI reported.
In a press briefing, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that there had been an understanding on matters related to security and defence. “PM [Modi] and President [Trump] said there was useful and comprehensive discussion on trade, there was an appreciation that it increased steadily year on year over the last few years, US exports to India had a fairly dramatic increase,” he said, according to ANI.
Shringla said the adverse trade balance was “gradually eroding” with more acquisitions from the United States. “On the trade side, the two leaders decided that we would conclude the ongoing discussions as soon as possible and give it a legal framework and the text could be finalised with legal vetting as soon as possible,” Shringla added.
The foreign secretary said India raised the matter of H-1B visas, and it was highlighted that Indian working professionals make a huge contribute to the development of the high-tech sector in the United States. Shringla said Trump was told about the “great deal of positive development” in Jammu and Kashmir. He also pointed out that two groups of envoys, including US envoy to India Kenneth Juster had recently visited the region after the Indian administration rescinded its special status and imposed a lockdown.
Earlier in the day, Trump was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. In brief remarks before the media earlier, Modi welcomed the US president and thanked him for taking time out to visit India. Trump praised Monday’s event at Motera stadium in Ahmedabad. “The last two days, especially yesterday at the stadium, it was a great honour for me,” he told Modi. “I would imagine they [the people] were there maybe more for you than for me...125,000 people were inside. Every time I mentioned your name, they cheered more. People love you here.”
After Rashtrapati Bhavan, Trump and his wife Melania Trump went to Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial Rajghat. The US president laid a wreath and observed a minute’s silence. “The American people stand strongly with a sovereign and wonderful India – The vision of the great Mahatma – This is a tremendous honour,” Trump wrote in the visitors book at Rajghat. The First Lady also signed the message.