What does Donald Trump think of India?

Donald Trump: US President promotes swift trade deal in India

At the beginning of his visit to India, US President Donald Trump spoke out in favor of the early conclusion of a comprehensive trade agreement between the two countries. Talks on this are still at an early stage, but they could lead to a "fantastic trade deal," said Trump in a joint appearance with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the west Indian city of Ahmedabad.

Trump also announced plans to sell more military equipment to India. The US looked forward to providing India with "the world's best and most feared weapons," he said. The US wanted to sell India anti-aircraft files, fighter jets and drones, among other things. A contract to purchase the latest attack helicopters has already been negotiated. So far India has also been buying heavy weapons in Russia and European countries. Trump did not explicitly name China, but made it clear on several occasions who he sees as a threat in the Indo-Pacific.

According to media reports, Trump and Modi could sign smaller deals involving the importation of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and US dairy products, as well as arms deals. But even if a $ 2.4 billion deal for US helicopters could be signed, Russia remains India's largest arms partner. The delivery of six nuclear reactors could also be the result of a nuclear agreement from 2008.

"Incredible Potential"

Trump's way into town was lined with posters welcoming the US President and his wife Melania Trump with slogans such as "Two strong nations, one great friendship". Thousands of people stood in line to welcome Trump. Together with Modi, he spoke to an audience of around 100,000 in a cricket stadium - probably the largest audience he has ever had. When Trump mentioned US attacks on militant Islamist extremists, the crowd cheered. He also received applause for his statement that the United States and Pakistan were taking action against militant groups on the Pakistani border.

In political terms, both states are concerned about China's striving for power, and they are working more closely together on defense policy. On the other hand, India reacted indignantly to Trump's offer of mediation in the Kashmir conflict with Pakistan and to criticism from Washington of the controversial Indian citizenship law. Critics accuse Modi's Hindu nationalist party BJP for discriminating against the 200 million Muslims in the country. Nationwide protests against the law continue.

India with its 1.3 billion inhabitants offers "unbelievable potential", said the US president now. The country will soon have the largest middle class in the world. He praised Modi as the "incredibly successful head of government" who transformed the country. Trump described India's democracy as an inspiration for all of humanity. In just 70 years since its independence from Great Britain, India has become "an economic heavyweight and the greatest democracy that has ever existed," said Trump. Before the state visit, he described India as the "King of Customs" and said that the country had "hit us very, very hard for many, many years".

Exciting growth market

Trade relations between the world's two largest democracies have long been problematic and have continued to deteriorate under Trump and Modi. In 2018, the US's bilateral trade volume with India was only around 140 billion US dollars. For comparison: That corresponds to about a tenth of the goods and services that the US exchanges with the EU. But India is an exciting growth market: According to the World Bank, the annual economic output is 2,000 US dollars per capita, in the USA it is 63,000 US dollars.

Originally, both sides had hoped to be able to conclude at least a limited trade deal during Trump's two-day visit to India. So far, however, the negotiations do not seem to be moving forward. Modi's government is sticking to trade barriers and recently raised tariffs. Until last March, the US had granted India preferential conditions for certain imports into the US, but then removed these due to India's adherence to trade barriers in many sectors.