U.S. President Donald Trump got a warm welcome from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to kick off a whirlwind 36-hour tour of the world's largest democracy and announced the two countries were finalizing a $3 billion arms deal.
"I believe the United States should be India's premier defense partner," said Trump, "and that's the way it's working out."
The president made the remarks during an event at Sardar Patel Stadium in Gujarat state's Ahmedabad city. Trump spoke to a roaring crowd of Modi loyalists estimated at around 100,000, telling the attendees that the military partnership between the U.S. and India was strong and that his administration "looks forward to providing India with some of the best and most feared military equipment on the planet."
"We make the greatest weapons ever made," said Trump. "Airplanes. Missiles. Rockets. Ships. We make the best and we're dealing now with India. But this includes advanced air-defense systems and armed and unarmed aerial vehicles."
As Reuters reported:
Trump said the two countries will sign deals on Tuesday to sell military helicopters worth $3 billion and that the United States must become the premier defence partner of India, which relied on Russian equipment during the Cold War. Reuters reported earlier that India has cleared the purchase of 24 helicopters from Lockheed Martin worth $2.6 billion.
Trump invoked Mahatma Gandhi and cited India's diverse society. But, journalist Rana Ayyub pointed out, that rhetoric rang false at an event organized by Modi, whose government has fueled majoritarian hate agains minorities in the country for political gain.
"The Trump speech is a sham," said Ayyub. "Invoking Gandhi and Vivakananda when the majoritarian regime of Narendra Modi wants to divide, polarize, and dehumanize minorities."
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The Trump speech is a sham. Invoking Gandhi and Vivakananda when the majoritarian regime of Narendra Modi wants to divide, polarise and dehumanise minorities. https://t.co/3xNjkmc4M7— Rana Ayyub (@RanaAyyub) February 24, 2020
Critics noted the ties between Modi and Trump's ideologies were deep, particularly in how the two leaders treat Muslims. Modi, as Common Dreams reported, was denied a visa into the U.S. until his 2014 election due to what critics claim was his implicit backing of riots in Gujarat that killed nearly 800 Muslims in 2002.
"Not surprising that the virulently Islamophobic Modi and BJP gave Trump a warm welcome," tweeted Massachusetts Democratic activist Jonathan Cohn.
In a statement, Amnesty International USA executive director Margaret Huang decried the two countries' leaders' shared bigotry.
"Anti-Muslim sentiment permeates the policies of both U.S. and Indian leaders," said Huang. "For decades, the U.S.-India relationship was anchored by claims of shared values of human rights and human dignity. Now, those shared values are discrimination, bigotry, and hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers."
On Sunday, human rights lawyer Arjun Sethi noted the similarities between Modi and Trump, calling the pair the "worst kind of fascists."
"Both Modi and Trump have criminalized minority communities, championed fake news and persecuted dissent, promoted supremacist ideologies, and played on the racism and anxiety of dominant communities," said Sethi.