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Trump Ends India Visit With Arms Deal And Press Conference


President Trump is on his way home now from India. He was there for barely 36 hours, but he did manage to visit three cities. He addressed a mega-rally at a cricket stadium, he visited the Taj Mahal, and he sealed arms and energy deals. From the capital of New Delhi, NPR's Lauren Frayer reports.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Red-uniformed guards on horseback escorted President Trump's armored car to a welcome ceremony at India's presidential palace. Later, Trump and the first lady sprinkled flower petals at the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi. Trump's visit was full of pomp if short on policy.

NISHA BISWAL: Well, certainly, you know, we were disappointed to not have a trade agreement or a trade package that could be announced during the president's visit.

FRAYER: Nisha Biswal is president of the U.S.-India Business Council. She was hoping for a U.S.-India trade deal to end nearly two years of tit for tat tariffs, but it remains elusive. Trump said it might happen by the end of the year if at all. Instead, Trump said India agreed to buy more than $3 billion of U.S. military equipment.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Apache and MH-60 Romeo helicopters, the finest in the world - these deals will enhance our joint defense capabilities as our militaries continue to train and operate side by side.

FRAYER: Washington has been pushing India to buy U.S. weapons rather than Russian ones. It increasingly sees India, the world's largest democracy, as a buffer to China's growing power in the region.



FRAYER: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he and Trump agreed to partner on defense, security, energy, technology. He also showed the U.S. president an incredible welcome, from a stadium filled with more than 100,000 screaming fans to a lavish state banquet this evening in Trump's honor. That was the plan, says Rudra Chaudhuri, director of Carnegie India think tank.

RUDRA CHAUDHURI: The Indian side has to appeal to Trump's vanity, to appeal to this friendship. So I would not undervalue what these visits do even if it means not putting the fine print on a trade deal.

FRAYER: Near the end of his visit, Trump held a 45-minute news conference in which he refused to criticize his host. Modi is a Hindu nationalist, and he's faced months of nationwide protests over a citizenship law that excludes Muslim refugees. More than a dozen people were killed in riots while Trump was here. Trump said he heard about the deaths but did not ask Modi about them or about the citizenship law. Instead, he praised the crowd Modi assembled for a Namaste Trump rally yesterday.


TRUMP: Wall-to-wall people - they've never seen anything like it. Somebody said it was the greatest greeting ever given to any head of state from any country.

FRAYER: Trump thanked Modi, calling him a terrific man, a terrific leader.

Lauren Frayer, NPR News, New Delhi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.