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A man takes a selfie with portraits of U.S. president Donald Trump and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi painted on a wall ahead of Trump's visit, in Ahmedabad

U say 'Howdy Modi', I say 'Namaste Trump'

A glimpse at an extraordinary US presidential visit

By Our Bureau and Agencies
  • Published 23.02.20, 5:39 PM
  • Updated 24.02.20, 1:14 AM
  • 4 mins read
  •  

Spring-cleaning time is almost over. It's time for the Trump-Modi bonhomie to begin. From opening the world's largest cricket stadium to hastily building a wall, the mystery organisers of the 'Namaste Trump' event are hours away from a 36-hour hopeful Donald Trump visit.

For those who couldn't find a place at the packed Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad, here is a glimpse of a US presidential visit that is extraordinary in many ways.

AP
Photo Credit: AP
In this Wednesday, February 12, 2020 photo, Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium stands illuminated, days before it is inaugurated in Ahmedabad. This new stadium when completed is expected to be one of the largest cricket stadiums in the world. U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to inaugurate it on Monday

A brand new venue

About 125,000 will attend the event at the grand and new Motera Stadium, also known as Sardar Patel Stadium, situated in Gujarat's big city Ahmedabad. IndiaToday.in reports that the stadium, which cost around 7 billion rupees to renovate, will be inaugurated by Trump on February 24, 2020. 

AP
Photo Credit: AP
Smoke from a pest fumigation rises from the newly constructed Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium that U.S. President Donald Trump will be visiting, in Ahmedabad

The Motera, or the erstwhile Gujarat stadium will become a second structural marvel, following the inauguration of the world's tallest statue — the 182m high Statue of Unity, which is also in Gujarat.

But the shadow of this wondrous, slightly out-of-place edifice is hiding several locals from view.

AP
Photo Credit: AP
Workers construct a wall in front of a slum ahead of U.S. president Donald Trump's visit, in Ahmedabad

The wall

The Associated Press reports that a half-kilometer (1,640-foot) brick wall has been hastily erected in India's Gujarat state ahead of a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump, with critics saying it was built to block the view of a slum area inhabited by more than 2,000 people.

News reports said the wall was originally planned to be 6-7 feet (1.8-2.1 meters) high but was reduced to 4 feet (1.2 meters) after it received widespread publicity.

AP
Photo Credit: AP
Residents of a slum near Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium hold eviction notices served to them in Ahmedabad

AP reports that 45 families have been evicted in a slum close to the cricket stadium. The residents said they were asked to leave because of the upcoming event, but the city’s civic body denied it.

“We have been living here for the last 20 years and now we are suddenly being told to vacate because some important leader is visiting this city for a day,” said Sanjay Patani, a resident. “This is injustice.”

Kishore Varna, a government official, said the land belongs to the civic body and evictions were done under the law. He didn’t say why the eviction notices were sent just days ahead of Trump’s visit.

AP
Photo Credit: AP
A woman walks past a wall graffiti on US president Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ahead of Trump’s visit, in Ahmedabad

The beautification...of walls

The walls enroute Taj Mahal from Agra's Kheria airport have been painted with pictures and slogans welcoming the United States president, who has a lot on his plate and will make a short trip to Agra.

Donald Trump is also the first US president in history to visit India with his wife Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner in tow. Bill Clinton came with daughter not wife, Jackie Kennedy came minus husband, Hillary came minus husband but with daughter. Obama, Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter and George W Bush came with wives and not children, livemint.com reports.

PTI
Photo Credit: PTI
A worker arranges flower pots at the Taj Mahal ahead of US President Donald Trump’s maiden visit to India, in Agra, on Saturday

The Agra facelift

For the first time since the Taj Mahal's construction, graves have been given "mud pack treatment", as reported by IndiaToday.in. The Archaeological Survey of India has undertaken cleaning up of the monument in a big way, using the mud pack therapy to remove dark spots. Taj Mahal is being spruced up for Trump's visit. Graves of Shahjahan and Mumtaz are undergoing mud pack treatment. The work of treating the graves will be over by February 22. 

The report says that 900 cusecs of water have also been released by the state irrigation department to fill up the filth and foul of a dry river Yamuna.

AP
Photo Credit: AP
Indian policemen walk at Sardar Patel stadium ahead of the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump in Ahmedabad

Security? Covered

At the ITC Maurya, a three-layer security will be in place. No stone is being left unturned at the place where the US president & family will check in on Monday. From Air Force One to Secret Service eyes, the US security apparatus for Trump’s visit has been rolling in since last week. PTI reports that the floor where the Grand Presidential Suite is located at the ITC Maurya, is out of bounds for most hotel staff owing to the elaborate security arrangements.

A Gulf News report said that some heavy-duty vehicles-- two specially-designed and identical Cadillac Beasts, a Marine One helicopter, a Chevrolet Suburban, and a Roadrunner will be part of the motorcade. 

AP
Photo Credit: AP
Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel stand guard at the Sardar Patel stadium ahead of the visit of U.S. President Donald Trump in Ahmedabad

India has been gearing up as well. 

NSG's anti-drone system, snipers, elite SWAT commandos, kite catchers, canine units, sharp shooters on high-rise buildings and Parakram vans, have all been deployed along the routes and areas in and around the hotel where Trump will be staying, said the PTI reports.

Hundreds of high-definition CCTV cameras with night vision have been installed across the Sardar Patel Marg where hotel ITC Maurya is located to monitor the situation around-the-clock, they said.

Besides the multi-layer security cover, elaborate arrangements have been made by the Delhi Police, including placement of double barricading on all the roads where Trump's convoy is likely to pass, said the report.

AP
Photo Credit: AP
Workers clean the premises of the Taj Mahal ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump visit in Agra

Who wins? What's next?

There is pomp and there is parade, and beyond the purdah of paintings and the walls, a trade deal seems to be elusive.

Of course the well-coiffured Firstly Lady and overtly photogenic daughter and son-in-law will do well in the photographs with a suited-up Trump. And the 'American dream' family will have finished a short but exotic vacation as the slum-dwellers of Ahmedabad and the internet media users of the world will gaze on.

AP
Photo Credit: AP
A family rides past huge cut out images of U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi displayed ahead of Trump's visit in Ahmedabad

Trump's visit, the AP says,  is aimed at smoothing ties strained by trade disputes and could also allow him to woo tens of thousands of Indian-American voters ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

Trade tensions between the two countries have escalated since the Trump administration levied tariffs on steel and aluminium from India. India responded with higher tariffs on agricultural goods and restrictions on U.S. medical devices. This prompted the U.S. to retaliate by removing India from a decades-old preferential trade program, and to the US president calling India a 'tariff king'.

We can't say for sure who wins, but it won't be the taxpayers.

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