Donald Trump before boarding: PM says it’ll be Indias biggest event ever

Kusum Tewari

AHMEDABAD/NEW DELHI: The new Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad is set to welcome US President
Donald Trump with Prime Minister
Narendra Modi playing host and over a lakh people expected in the arena for the ‘
Namaste Trump’ event.

A packed stadium will greet Trump and Modi when they reach the venue on Monday after a 22-km roadshow that will take them to
Sabarmati Ashram en route. The US president has in his tweets indicated that he is looking forward to the big public reception planned for him in Ahmedabad.

“I look forward to being with the people of India. We are going to have many millions and millions of people. It’s a long trip. I get along very well with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi. He is a friend of mine,” Trump told reporters outside the White House before leaving for India.

“I had committed to this trip long time ago. I look forward to it. I hear it’s going to be a big event… the biggest event they ever had in India. That’s what the Prime Minister told me,” Trump said in response to a question.

The programme at Motera will feature speeches by the two leaders who will be on stage along with first lady
Melania Trump, the only three persons on the platform.

The PM set the tone for an extravaganza by tweeting, “India looks forward to welcoming @POTUS @realDonaldTrump… It’s an honour that he will be with us tomorrow, starting with the historic programme in Ahmedabad.”

Gujarat CM
Vijay Rupani said, “Entire Gujarat speaks in one voice, Namaste Trump”.

The US president will leave for Sabarmati Ashram on arrival after flying almost 30 hours with the roads expected to be packed with people.

Though there is no open carriage, the VVIP cavalcade will proceed at a more moderate speed, allowing Trump and his entourage to see the crowds lining the streets.

Unparalleled security arrangements are in place in Ahmedabad to welcome Trump when he lands at 11.40am. A rousing reception has been organised for Trump at the airport, where he will be received by Modi.

The two leaders will then embark on a 22-km roadshow, through streets lined with cultural performers and and cheering people.

A rock star reception has been planned at Motera — the world’s largest cricketing arena. The programme promises to outdo the pomp and celebrity exuberance of the ‘Howdy Modi’ programme in Houston, Texas, during Modi’s US visit last year.

An assembly of sportspersons, industrialists, NRIs and other eminent persons will be part of the massive ‘Namaste Trump’ gathering. Trump and Modi will engage with the audience for over an hour.

The bonhomie between the two leaders is expected to boost Modi’s global stature and give Trump the stage to woo the Indian diaspora in the US ahead of the presidential election there. The Gujarat-origin community numbers more than 4 lakh in the US.

The enthusiastic reception will be a welcome break for the president given there are not many countries that can host such an event. “It will be seen as the leader of the world’s most powerful democracy being greeted by the biggest democracy,” said a BJP functionary.

The presidential visit has been in the works for a while and Trump’s delegation will have important members of the cabinet along with daughter Ivanka and son-in-law
Jared Kushner. The route will have tableaux reflecting the cultural diversity of Indian states.

At Motera, there will be a cultural event with lead performer Kailash Kher along with performances by Gujarati singers. The Gujarat cabinet and other dignitaries will be in the audience.

Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and chief of protocol Nagesh Singh have been reviewing the arrangements. The Gujarat government and party organisers like BJP foreign cell head Vijay Chauthaiwale have been engaged in preparations for over a week.

The Trumps and the US delegation will leave for Agra around 3.30pm and reach around an hour and quarter later. The visit at the Taj will begin a little after 5pm and the president is expected to reach Delhi by 7.30pm and will stay at ITC Maurya.

The business end of the visit will unfold on Tuesday at Hyderabad House, after a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan and a visit to the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi. There will be a meeting with President
Ram Nath Kovind and Trump will depart at 8pm, around 36 hours after his arrival.

Top security and defence agencies — including the US Secret Service, the Indian Air Force and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) — will monitor the Ahmedabad event from the land and sky.

Senior officials said the IAF and the DRDO have been included in security arrangements for the first time in Gujarat. “DRDO radars and equipment will be used for anti-drone action while the IAF has been asked to undertake sky patrolling,” said a senior official involved in security logistics. Apart from special forces, more than 12,000 state police personnel have been pressed into service. More than 50 medical teams and fully equipped medical centres will be available along the roadshow route and at the stadium.

The Sabarmati Ashram visit was reinstated into Trump’s itinerary only late on Saturday night. Trump and the first lady are likely to spend 15 minutes, offering tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Hridaykunj, where Gandhiji lived. Trump is expected to be hosted at the ashram by Modi. Trump will be gifted Mahatma’s autobiography ‘The Story of My Experiments With Truth’, a small replica of Gandhi’s charkha, khadi cloth with Gandhi’s talisman and a marble statue of Gandhi’s three wise monkeys.

Trump and his team will be offered Gujarati snacks including khaman (steamed Bengal gram cake), the famed Gujarati masala chai and kaju katri.

Mega cut-outs and hoardings of Modi, Trump and the first lady dominated Ahmedabad’s skyline ahead of the VVIP visit. The city has been decked up with exotic flowers, transplanted trees, and wall paintings for the historic day.

In Video:
Looking forward to being with people of India: US Prez Donald Trump

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