US President Donald Trump, addressing a huge crowd at an Ahmedabad cricket stadium today, described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his special friend and a “tremendously successful leader” but he also said he was “very tough”.
“We will always remember this remarkable hospitality. India will hold a special place in our hearts. PM Modi started out as ‘teawallah’, he worked as a tea seller. Everybody loves him but I will tell you this, he is very tough. India a miracle of democracy,” PM Trump said.
President Trump dedicated much of his speech at the headline event of his 36-hour India visit to effusive praise for PM Modi and India.
India, said President Trump, gives hope to all of humanity.
“Melania and I traveled 8,000 miles around the world to deliver the message America loves India, America respects India,” said the US president.
“The rise of India in the last 7 decades has been remarkable… The pace at which it has grown in the last two decades phenomenal. The people of India are an inspiration for the rest of the world,” he said.
The US President said five months ago America had welcomed the “great Prime Minister” at a giant football stadium in Texas and today India had welcomed him at the world’s largest cricket stadium.
Describing PM Modi as “tremendously successful”, he said last year, more than 600 million people went to the polls and gave him a landslide victory in the largest democratic elections anywhere on earth.
“You are living proof that with hard work and devotion Indians can accomplish anything they want,” he said.
In his introductory comments, PM Modi said “Namaste, Trump” thrice to welcome the US President and his family. A stadium full of people echoed the words. The two leaders hugged for the second time on the stage at the Motera cricket stadium, built at a cost of Rs 800 crore and billed as the world’s biggest.
“India, US relation is no longer just another partnership. It is now a far greater, closer relationship,” said the Prime Minister.
The newly-built stadium, which has a capacity of 1.1 lakh, was packed for the event, meeting President Trump’s expectations of being welcomed by “millions”. The seats, in the Indian team’s blue and orange colours, were covered by tens of thousands of people wearing white caps; some wore saffron scarves and danced as they waited for the two leaders.
President Trump drove to the stadium in his black armoured vehicle, the Beast, after a visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram with First Lady Melania Trump.
The Trump tried their hand at Gandhi’s charkha or spinning wheel and were treated to snacks like broccoli samosa and apple pie in their short visit.
PM Modi went to the airport to greet the Trumps as they stepped off Air Force One. Folk dancers carrying colourful umbrellas danced alongside the red carpet and musicians performed on the airport grounds.
Hopes that the world’s two largest democracies could negotiate a “confidence building” deal in time for Trump’s arrival have faded in recent days as differences over agriculture, medical devices, digital trade and proposed new tariffs fester, according to business groups.