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Before Trump visit, Indian city of Ahmedabad gets a facelift and a wall in front of a slum

New Delhi – Authorities in India are spending millions of dollars to give a city a facelift ahead of President Trump's first official visit to the country Monday. Mr. Trump's first of three stops during the two-day visit will be to Ahmedabad in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat, where the president will inaugurate the world's largest cricket stadium with room for 110,000 spectators.

Part of the makeover in the city is a more than 1,300-foot-long wall that's being built along Mr. Trump's route from the airport to Motera Stadium that will block his view of a slum area. Some residents of the neighborhood have also alleged they have received "eviction" notices from authorities.

Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nehra said the decision to build the 4-foot wall was made two months ago to "prevent encroachments" on the road and sidewalks, which are being improved. "It's incorrect to link it with the visit by the U.S. president," he said.

The "beautification drive" includes widening and refurbishing roads and improving infrastructure around the new stadium. The walls along the roads that Mr. Trump will take are being painted with photos of him and Modi and slogans and graffiti welcoming the president; the sidewalks are getting freshly painted as well.

Construction workers build a wall along a slum area as part of a beautification drive along a route that President Trump and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be taking during Mr. Trump's visit to Ahmedabad, India, February 13, 2020.
Construction workers build a wall along a slum area as part of a beautification drive along a route that President Trump and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be taking during Mr. Trump's visit to Ahmedabad, India, February 13, 2020. Reuters/Amit Dave

"Namaste Trump"

The biggest attraction in Ahmedabad will be a grand event in Motera Stadium called "Namaste Trump," where the president is expected to address tens of thousands of people along with Modi. The event will "showcase India's rich and diverse culture that will have few parallels in India or elsewhere," Raveesh Kumar, a spokesperson for India's External Affairs Ministry, told reporters on Thursday.

"The route from the airport to the stadium, we expect a large number of people will line up," Kumar said. Earlier this week, Mr. Trump said Modi had assured him there would be about seven million people to welcome him on the streets alone, millions more than the population of the city.

It was unclear how many people will actually turn up, but authorities said over 100,000 people have signed up to welcome Mr. Trump on the road. The roadshow will feature 28 stages that have been set up to represent various parts of the country featuring performances by artists.

"The roadshow will feature Mahatma Gandhi's life, and we are expecting large number of people to greet President Trump outside the stadium," Kumar said, referring to India's independence and non-violence icon. Mr. Trump's stadium address will be like last year's "Howdy Modi" event at NRG Stadium in Houston, where the president shared a stage with Modi and addressed a large gathering.

Trump hosts Indian prime minister at "Howdy Modi!" rally in Texas

Conch music and dancers to greet Trumps

But before the roadshow and the stadium event, there will be a grand, traditional welcome. A "Shankhnaad" recital of conch music will begin as soon as the president and the first lady emerge from Air Force One.

Six dance troupes with a total of 116 artists along the 150-foot-wide red carpet will perform traditional dances, the Gujarat government said. Also, 256 other artists will perform traditional dances on the sprawling lawns of the Ahmedabad airport.

Mr. Trump is expected to visit Gandhi's house in the city. The president will also visit the famous Taj Mahal, the world-renowned white marble mausoleum, in Agra on Monday before heading to New Delhi, where he will hold bilateral talks with Modi on Tuesday.

No trade deal with India for now

Earlier this week, Mr. Trump hinted there won't be a trade deal between the U.S. and India on this tour. "Well, we can have a trade deal with India, but I'm really saving the big deal for later on," Mr. Trump said Wednesday.

Washington wants greater access to Indian markets on exports of agricultural products and medical devices like heart stents and artificial knees while India has been pushing for the restoration of preferential status under a U.S. trade program for developing countries.

Last year, Mr. Trump expelled India from the program, which gave some Indian exports tariff-free access to the U.S. market. "I'm going to India next week, and we are talking trade. They've been hitting us very hard for many, many years," Mr. Trump said at a rally for supporters in Colorado on Thursday. "We've got to talk a little business. It's been hitting us hard. They give us tariffs, one the highest in the world is India."

While playing down Mr. Trump's comments, Kumar, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, said, "We do not want to rush into a deal as the issues involved are complicated with many decisions potentially having real impact on people's lives and long-term economic consequences. We do not want to create artificial deadlines."

Modi looking for a win

Mr. Trump's visit comes as Modi is facing an economic slowdown and some of the most serious public protests ever over a new citizenship law that is widely seen as discriminatory to Muslims and a plan to count every resident of the country in a register of citizens that will potentially render millions stateless.

Modi has also faced international criticism for his government's sudden move in August to strip the Kashmir region of limited autonomy, placing its elected leaders under detention and putting the entire population under a security and communications lockdown for months. If nothing more, Modi's government would like to showcase the U.S. president's visit as an international approval of his policies at home.

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