US President Donald Trump will begin his maiden trip to India on Monday

US President Donald Trump will begin his maiden trip to India on Monday

US President Donald Trump will begin his maiden trip to India on Monday, becoming the seventh American president to visit the country. Rudra Chaudhuri

Mr Trump’s two-day visit is designed to partially tickle his vanity, but, as importantly, it is to boost his chances of returning to office in the 2020 US general election.

He will visit three cities in India: the national capital, Delhi; Agra, where he will see the Taj Mahal; and Ahmedabad, the main city in the western state of Gujarat, where he is expected to address an audience of more than 100,000 people in an event aptly called “Namaste Trump”.

This is an unmistakeable public diplomacy response to the “Howdy, Modi!” extravaganza in Houston last year, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr Trump addressed an audience of 50,000 Indians living in the US.

But these visits are not just about theatrics and atmospherics. They are also about forcing a change in American leaders’ general approach to India.

In this case, it’s about convincing Mr Trump of the imperative of India, while helping him with the 2.4 million-strong Indian-American voter base in the US.

And there is at least one reason to appeal to his ego: stronger, strategic ties.

It’s unlikely that a much debated but slim trade agreement between the US and India will be inked during this visit.

Disagreements over the price of apples, walnuts, and medical devices; the US’s demands for greater access to India’s dairy, poultry and e-commerce market; and ongoing discussions over lowering Indian tariffs on American-made Harley Davidson motorcycles, remain unresolved.

And speculation about whether or not Robert Lighthizer, the uncompromising US Trade Representative, will skip the trip suggests that a deal is off the table, at least for the time being.

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