In what could be a stunning projection of India-US friendship on the world stage, US President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner will be accorded a grand reception in India on their arrival in Ahmedabad on February 24.
Lakhs of people are expected to line the route that the US President will take from the airport to Motera, where the world's largest cricket stadium has been built. More than a lakh people will pack the stadium to greet Trump, a spectacle no US President has seen yet on an overseas visit.
On Thursday, Trump spoke about the huge reception he was expecting in Gujarat. He compared the massive reception that was awaiting in India with the 60,000-seat stadium in Colorado by remarking, "It's going to look like peanuts, from now on".
The First Family from the US will be spending the evening at the world famous Taj Mahal in Agra. The second day of the visit will be devoted to serious talks in Delhi between Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with their ministers and officials.
I would like to view Trump's visit as special on several counts. US presidential elections are due later this year, and after seeing the 50,000-strong NRI crowd at the Howdy Modi! rally in Houston, Texas last year, Trump has gauged the popularity of our Prime Minister among people of Indian origin in the USA. Trump has admitted on record that he is now habituated watching huge rallies. This time, Narendra Modi has invited almost 1.25 lakh people to greet Trump at the Motera stadium.
Normally, huge crowds rarely turn up in the US, but we know, in India, Modi has the magic to bring in 10 lakh people at a single rally. Naturally, Trump is very excited with the numbers. Earlier, he said, seven million people will turn up to greet him, and on Friday he hiked up the number to 10 million.
Trump may have confused millions with lakhs, but keeping that aside, one should try to understand the thinking behind his expectations and excitement. Trump values his personal rapport with Prime Minister Modi.
On Thursday, Trump claimed that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg personally told him that he was No. 1 on Facebook. At an event, Trump said, "The head of Facebook Mr Zuckerberg came in three weeks ago. He said, Congratulations. I said, On what? He said , you're Number One on Facebook. I said, that's cool, I'm number one on Twitter too. ...And I congratulated Prime Minister Modi. I said, but you know, you have 1.5 billion people, I have 350 million. You have an advantage."
Facts however show that Modi is Number 1 on Facebook, as of now. He is followed by 44 million people, while Trump's Facebook account is followed by 27 million people.
I remember, when Prime Minister Modi spoke to me last year during the Lok Sabha polls in India TV's 'Salaam India' event, he had disclosed the personal rapport he had already established with Trump.
Modi then revealed how Trump personally took him on a tour of White House and showed him Abraham Lincoln's Room and other relics from US history, and spoke extempore without taking help from notes.
This India visit by Trump and his family denotes the personal bonding that has taken place between the two great personalities. India is certainly going to derive advantage from this visit. One one hand, it will send clear signals to Turkey and Malaysia, the two countries that have sided with Pakistan, and on the other hand, China will get to know the extent and depth of India-US friendship.
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