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President Trump Addresses Over 100,000 In India Ahead Of Formal Talks

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump addressed one of the biggest crowds of his presidency today in western India. He was at the world's biggest cricket stadium, the guest of honor at a rally with India's prime minister. Trump is on a 36-hour trip to India. He also fit in a tour of the Taj Mahal today. Tomorrow, it's down to business with talks about trade and security. NPR's Lauren Frayer has more.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MACHO MAN")

VILLAGE PEOPLE: (Singing) Macho, macho man, yeah.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Bollywood music gave way to "Macho Man" as President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the stage in front of more than 100,000 cheering fans. The rally was dubbed Namaste Trump. Namaste is a greeting in Hindi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Namaste. Namaste.

FRAYER: It was a festival-like atmosphere.

KELLY DHRUV: Look at this. This is unbelievable. I mean, I have never seen this many people gathering to see political leaders.

FRAYER: Lawyer Kelly Dhruv got invited by the U.S. Embassy because she'd been on a Fulbright scholarship in the U.S. The crowd was carefully vetted, mostly members of Modi's Hindu Nationalist Party, school groups and business people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI: (Chanting) India-U.S.A. friendship

FRAYER: Modi led the crowd in chants about his friendship with Trump and their...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MODI: Shared values and ideals.

FRAYER: ...Shared values and ideals between the leader of the world's largest democracy, India, and the leader of the most powerful one, the U.S. Trump and Modi are both nationalists who've been accused of discriminating against minorities. India has been wracked by riots in recent months. At least three people were killed today in New Delhi at a demonstration over Modi's new citizenship law, which excludes Muslim refugees. Protesters accuse Modi of betraying India's secular values. In Trump's speech, you could hear echoes of his America First mantra, an outlook he says Modi shares.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Both of us understand that when leaders put the interests of their own citizens first, we can forge strong and fair partnerships to build a safer and more prosperous world.

FRAYER: Tomorrow, they'll hunker down to talk privately about that partnership. For nearly two years, the U.S. and India have slapped tariffs on select imports from one another's countries. Trump has said India is unfair to the U.S. but that his friendship with Modi might help them reach a trade deal, except...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Except that he's a very tough negotiator.

FRAYER: Trump said that deal probably will not come this week, but there's more to this relationship than trade.

ALYSSA AYRES: I'm expecting to see the final reveal of what the administration has been working on with India on the policy front.

FRAYER: Alyssa Ayres is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She's looking forward to hearing Trump articulate how much his administration looks to India as a buffer to another growing power in the region.

AYRES: There is a very important geopolitical focus on China's rise and what that means. And India as the world's largest democracy - for all of its challenges and problems - is an important part of that response.

FRAYER: Part of that is joint military exercises, which the U.S. now does more of with India than even with some of its NATO allies. Washington wants India to buy more U.S. weapons rather than Russian ones. Modi and Trump may announce deals to that effect tomorrow.

Lauren Frayer, NPR News, Aminabad, India.

(SOUNDBITE OF WYE OAK'S "THE LOUDER I CALL, THE FASTER IT RUNS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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