US President Donald Trump arrived on Monday in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad for a two-day trip aimed at reinvigorating ties between the world’s biggest democracies that have been strained by trade rows.
Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, will attend a rally at a giant stadium in the city, the political home of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Crowds were lining up outside a giant stadium in western India on Monday ahead of US President Donald Trump’s first visit to the country during which the two sides will aim to reset relations that have been buffeted by a trade spat.
Trump landed in Ahmedabad, the largest city in PM Modi’s home state of Gujarat, a little before noon local time (0630 GMT). A roadshow is planned and a huge reception will be held in a 110,000-seat cricket stadium said to be the world’s largest.
In the stadium, many people were wearing customised white hats saying “Namaste (Greetings) Trump”, while workers handed out thousands of cardboard masks of the US president.
“We are ready to come to India, we are on our way, we will be meeting everyone in a few hours,” Trump tweeted in the Hindi language before he landed.
For welcoming Trump work has been going on around the clock in Ahmedabad to spruce things up — to the annoyance of some locals as well as monkeys.
A long wall has been hastily built, along the route in Ahmedabad in western India to the new Sardar Patel Stadium in order, locals believe, to hide a slum, although officials deny it.
Scores of banners and hoardings with pictures of Trump, Modi and Melania Trump have been put up across the city, projecting the “Namaste Trump” rally as a historic event in US-India relations.
The route will be lined with thousands of people — well short of the 6-10 million Trump says he has been told will attend — as well as stages for performers and images of independence hero Mahatma Gandhi.
A local NGO and the state forest department have also been roped in to keep birds and bands of monkeys out of Air Force One’s way on the runway at Ahmedabad airport.
“In the past 10 days, we have caught 45-odd monkeys. They come in search of food,” Raag Patel from the Nature Conservation Foundation said.
Next stop for the Trumps will be sunset at the Taj Mahal in Agra, south of New Delhi, and here too workers have been busy making the world-famous Islamic mausoleum more beautiful still.
For the Trumps, the replicas of the graves of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal — for whom the Taj Mahal was built — are getting the beauty treatment too, and for the first time.
“It was already planned but the treatment was brought forward for Trump’s visit.” Authorities have also released vast volumes of water into the Yamuna river flowing adjacent to the Taj in order to lessen the usual whiff of raw sewage and industrial effluent.
“This move may not make the Yamuna’s water fit for drinking, but could reduce foul smell from the river,” said Arvind Kumar, an engineer from the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board.