In the midst of Impeachment trial and as though seeking to divert attention from the fallout, President Donald Trump is reported to be visiting India next month for the first time since he joined office and before he goes to elections for a second term later this year.
Top sources told media that New Delhi and Washington DC are in the process of finalizing dates. “We are working on mutually agreed dates. It is likely to happen soon,” an official of the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Trump share a strong relationship, a glimpse of which was displayed last year in Houston where the two leaders endorsed each other before a massive Indian diaspora.
Though, majority of Indians in the US have historically and traditionally been Democrat voters, the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Texas, may have struck a new political dynamic. Republicans in the US hope to swing Indian votes in their favour in the next presidential elections.
President Trump’s visit to India, sources said, will most likely be finalized after his impeachment trial begins in the Senate next week. The trial is an outcome of the initiative of the House of Representatives which voted in favour of impeaching President Trump allegedly for seeking help from Ukraine to influence the 2020 presidential elections.
The last US President who visited India was Barack Obama in 2015. New Delhi and Washington DC are expected to sign a trade deal pending since 2018, amid an economic slowdown in India.
Officials from New Delhi and Washington are in touch to work out mutually convenient dates for US President Donald Trump’s visit to India on a standing invitation, a year after he expressed his inability to attend the Republic Day parade in the Indian capital, people aware of the developments said.
According to a person familiar with the planning of the tour, the visit could take place as early as the second half of February. However, the timing will depend on the duration of the US Senate trial, expected to start this week, to determine if Trump should be removed from office in impeachment proceedings, the person added.
The US President was unable to participate as the chief guest of the Republic Day celebrations due to scheduling constraints, the White House said in October 2018, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited him for a bilateral visit during their talks in Washington.
An Indian official who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “Both sides are in touch to work out mutually convenient dates for the visit.” He did not elaborate on the timeline of the state visit.
There has been a standing invitation to Trump after he expressed his inability to visit India last year, essentially in view of his State of the Union speech, the annual presidential address to a joint sitting of the US congress.
“He wants me to go there,” Trump told reporters in November last year to a question about the invitation from the Indian Prime Minister. “I will be going at some point to India,” he added.
The Indian invitation to Trump was reiterated last month by defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar, when they called on the US President at the White House after their meeting with their American counterparts Mark Esper and Mike Pompeo.
The US President gave a positive response, the first person said, adding that planning picked up for the visit along with progress in trade talks that have been touted to be “close” to being formalized between the two countries.
India and the US have indicated that a short-term deal is in sight and could be signed soon, with a more ambitious longer-term agreement set for a later date. The two sides have been in talks to resolve trade differences and the dialogue could lay the ground for an ambitious Free Trade Agreement.
A trade deal with India, though not of the same size as the one the US and China are scheduled to announce in Washington this week, will be an important achievement of the Trump administration, especially in an election year, with the US President seeking a second term in November.