Trump’s brief visit will be long on pageantry and symbolism but relatively short on substance. The two countries face stubborn tensions over trade even as they continue to deepen their security cooperation. At the rally, Trump touted a $3 billion defense deal with India.
Meanwhile, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has faced considerable international criticism — including from members of Congress — over its crackdown in Kashmir and the passage of a controversial religion-based citizenship bill that has triggered protests across the country. In the run-up to the trip, a senior White House official said Trump would raise the issue of religious freedom with Modi in private.
Arriving at the airport in the western city of Ahmedabad, Trump was greeted by Modi, whom he has described as a good friend. The two leaders appeared together at a rally in Houston last year.
On Monday, the two leaders traveled from the airport to an ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati River where Mohandas Gandhi, India’s revered independence leader, lived for 13 years. The roads were lined with people, perhaps in the tens of thousands. (Previously, Trump had boasted at a rally in Colorado that 10 million people would greet him upon his arrival.)
The Trumps toured Gandhi’s modest home, removing their shoes before entering as all visitors do. Trump also sat on the floor and tried spinning cotton on a charkha, a hand-cranked wheel that Gandhi promoted as a tool of self-reliance.
The next stop was Motera Stadium, a new venue that India describes as the largest cricket stadium in the world, with a seating capacity of 110,000. The stadium was nearly full, and attendees waited hours in the blazing sun for Trump and Modi to arrive.
Trump and Modi lavished praise on each other during the joint rally. Modi welcomed Trump to the world’s biggest democracy, while Trump spoke of the close ties between the two countries. Trump called Modi an “exceptional leader” who works “night and day for his country.”
“America loves India, America respects India, and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people,” Trump continued. By the time the rally concluded, more than half the attendees had left, weary of the long hours under the sun at temperatures up to 88 degrees.
Trump, who is traveling with his wife as well as his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, flew from Ahmedabad to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Upon landing, he was greeted by Yogi Adityanath, a radical Hindu monk known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric who is chief minister of India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh.
Trump’s trip continues Tuesday with ceremonies, meetings and a banquet in New Delhi, where he landed Monday evening. We will be posting live updates of his day Tuesday.
Read more about how Trump’s first day in India unfolded below.