Donald Trump was greeted on the red carpet after Air Force One landed in Ahmedabad, India on Monday and began a two-day visit to the country, which is both spectacle and substance.
Hundreds of artists crowded into Ahmedabad airport when Trump's plane landed. He was greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a drummer and dancer with colorful fabric umbrellas on the asphalt.
The scene opened a day full of festivals for the American president, who made no secret of his penchant for large crowds and impressive performances.
Modi hopes that the greeting in his home state of Gujarat will further strengthen his friendship with Trump and strengthen relations with the United States, which are frayed over trade disputes.
From the airport, Trump's wagon convoy is expected to wind its way over 22 kilometers of streets to a new cricket stadium with 110,000 seats, in which both leaders will speak at an event called "Namaste Trump". Modi and Trump performed at a similar event called "Howdy, Modi!" – in Houston last year.
Trump has repeatedly boasted of the amount he expects for the roadshow in India. "I have heard that they will have 10 million people. They say that on the way to one of the largest stadiums in the world, the largest cricket stadium in the world, six to ten million people will show up," Trump said to an audience of the last Campaign rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado week.
On Sunday, when he left the White House, he told reporters that "millions and millions of people" would attend the event.
"Some people say the biggest event they have ever had in India," Trump said. "The Prime Minister told me. This will be the biggest event they have ever had."
Indian officials estimated that the amount would be closer to 100,000 – the total population of Ahmedabad was 5.6 million as of the 2011 census – but still expected an impressive performance for the US leader.
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump leave the country after participating in a "Namaste Trump" rally on February 24, 2020 at Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Almond NGAN – AFP via Getty Images
Workers in town have furiously redone the streets and repainted overpasses in anticipation of Trump's visit, and a 200-yard wall has been erected to block the view of a slum near the airport. On the billboards along the route are pictures of the two guides, which are decorated with slogans for the visit.
Nimesh Barot, deputy vice president at Tata Consultancy Services, said the excitement is increasing across the city.
"There are many gujaratis in the United States," said Barot, 47, in Gujarat's largest city. "They have no objection to the disruption this program will cause on Monday – route diversions, schools and colleges have been closed – because President Trump's visit will draw the world's focus to Ahmedabad."
Baro is part of the religious sect BAPS Swaminarayan that is popular with most Gujarati-speaking Hindu Indians. The sect, which operates 140 temples in the United States, is building a giant temple in Robinsville, New Jersey that spans 200 acres.
Between the airport and the stadium, Trump is expected to visit the Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, a residence of Mahatma Gandhi during the Indian independence movement.
Gandhi lived in a modest little house on the site for years and left in 1930 to protest the British salt monopoly to lead the 24-day Dandi March. The demonstration focused worldwide attention on Indian resistance and Gandhi's non-violent protest tactics and was seen as a catalyst for the country's independence from the British Raj.
The flag waving and the cheering crowds on the streets were achieved by the scene at Sardar Patel Stadium, which will be the world's largest cricket ground after a $ 100 million renovation is complete.
"We know this is a political visit for Trump," said Hakim Patel, 52, who sells electrical products. “He tries to impress the rich Gujaratis and Indians in the United States by coming to Ahmedabad. Ordinary people like us can only hope that Trump will help India by investing here. "
The Indian prime minister has tried to use foreign guide tours to improve international visibility for Ahmedabad. Before Trump, he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Modi's hope is to offer an alternative vision for the city's unification with deadly anti-Muslim unrest in 2002 when he was prime minister of the state.
After the rally in the cricket stadium, Trump returns to the airport and flies to Agra, where he wants to visit the legendary Taj Mahal. The US president once owned a casino in Atlantic City, the design of which was based on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Officials in Agra were also busy before Trump's visit when workers cleaned the walls and fountains at the memorial. Last week, the government released millions of gallons of additional water from the sewer network that feeds the Yamuna River to mask the pollution that plagues the city's water.
A more difficult problem could be the ubiquitous monkey population roaming the grounds of the nearly four-century-old mausoleum, which has occasionally attacked tourists in the complex along with other stray animals. Security officers were armed with hand-held slingshots to ward off monkeys, India Today reported.
Trump will then leave for Delhi, where he will spend the night before a series of meetings with government officials and executives on Tuesday. He is expected to end his trip that evening with dinner at the Presidential Palace.
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