19 February, 2020
By SJA Jafri + Agencies
NEW DELHI/ WASHINGTON/ ISLAMABAD: The US President Donald Trump will inaugurate the world’s largest cricket stadium when he arrives in Ahmedabad in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, at the start of a two-day visit aimed at smoothing ties strained by trade disputes.
As Trump heads to India on his first official trip next week, negotiators have been trying for weeks to put together a limited accord giving the US greater access to India’s dairy and poultry markets and lowering tariffs on other products.
Trump is also expected to visit the humble abode of India’s independence leader Mahatma Gandhi in the Gujarat state’s capital.
The leaders of China, Japan and Israel have all visited Ahmedabad since Modi became prime minister. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat state for nearly 13 years before his Hindu nationalist party swept to power in 2014.
Slum residents have told Al Jazeera that the authorities do not want Trump to see poverty but officials said it was part of a “beautification” plan.
With a capacity for 110,000 spectators, the Motera Stadium will dislodge the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the world’s largest cricket stadium.
Ashok Brahmbhatt, secretary of Gujarat Cricket Association, which owns the stadium set to be opened by Trump, said it would also spend tens of millions of rupees during the event.
Ahmedabad municipal commissioner Vijay Nehra tweeted on Sunday that more than 100,000 participants had registered so far to greet Trump as he heads from the airport to the city centre. Trump said last week Modi had promised “millions and millions” of people would line his route.
Since Trump took office in 2017, long-standing trade differences between the world’s biggest democracies have come to the fore, with Trump calling India the tariff king.
Modi, who has tried to build a personal rapport with Trump, is pulling out all the stops for his visit.
“We’re not treated very well by India, but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot. And he told me we’ll have 7 million people between the airport and the event,” Trump said, referring to a roadshow ahead of a “Hello Trump” rally in Ahmedabad along the lines of the “Howdy Modi” extravaganza the US president organised for the Indian prime minister in Houston last September.
Authorities in Ahmedabad expect to spend around 800m to 850m Indian rupees ($11-12m) on preparations for the visit by the American president that is likely to last around three hours, two government officials with direct knowledge of the plans told Reuters news agency.
The sum is equivalent to about 1.5 percent of the annual budget for the home ministry in Gujarat.
Security-related costs, with more than 12,000 police officers expected to be deployed, will account for almost half the expense, said the officials, who declined to be named as they are not authorised to speak publicly about the visit.
Trump may also visit the famous Taj Mahal monument in the city of Agra, and all leave for police officers in that city has been cancelled, according to a document seen by Reuters News Agency.