President Trump to address religious freedom with Modi ‘privately’

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People ride their motorbikes past a hoarding with the images of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump installed next to decorated trees alongside a road ahead of Trump’s visit, in Ahmedabad, February 20, 2020. REUTERS/Amit Dave

President Donald Trump will discuss the issue of the exclusion of Muslims from the Citizenship Amendment Act and concerns over the National Register of Citizens with Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘privately’ according to a senior administration official. He will be speaking of religious freedom publicly.

The President will not volunteer to mediate the Kashmir conflict, but will call for reduction of tensions at the Line of Control, and reiterate that Pakistan control the activities of terrorist elements within its borders.

Senior administration officials briefing the press Feb. 21, 2020, said the visit of President Trump to India was a “demonstration” of the strong ties with New Delhi, and the focus would be on economic and energy ties, the need to grow trade relations beyond the current $140 billion; and security cooperation, particularly counter-terrorism, and the Indo-Pacific region.

When asked if the President would address the exclusion of Muslims from the CAA, and the controversial National Register of Citizens, the official said, “I think President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private.  He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration.  It is something that is important to the President and I am sure it will come up.”

“I think that the President will talk about these issues in his meetings with Prime Minister Modi and note that the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions, respect for religious minorities.  Of course, it’s in the Indian constitution — religious freedom, respect for religious minorities, and equal treatment of all religions in India,” the official added.

As for Kashmir, the official said, President Trump would “encourage” reduction in tensions, and dialogue between India and Pakistan, during his visit. He would also call for ‘continued’ momentum from Pakistan on terrorist activities, and for the two countries to maintain peace at the Line of Control. “We continue to believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two is based on continued momentum in Pakistan’s efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory.  So we continue to look for that,” the senior administration official said.

President Trump flies directly to Ahmedabad this Monday, Feb. 24, where a massive public meeting on the lines of Howdy Modi! in Houston, TX is planned; following that the President and First Lady, along with Prime Minister Modi, will travel to Agra to see the Taj Mahal; They then fly into New Delhi Feb. 25, where after some ceremonies, they will have a business meeting; meet U.S. Embassy staff, followed by dinner at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The visit to India, the senior administration official indicated, would reinforce common values and strategic goals.

“Indeed, India is a pillar of our Indo-Pacific strategy, and we continue to work together to promote this vision of a free and open international system based on market economics, good governance, freedom of the seas and skies, and respect for sovereignty,” the official said.

The trade deal is not expected to be finalized, the official indicated. “We will continue discussions beyond the visit,” the official emphasized. and put the onus on India to meet Washington’s expectations. “Whether or not there will be announcement on a trade package is, really, wholly dependent upon what the Indians are prepared to do,” the senior administration official said.

“The trade and economic relationship with India is critically important to the United States, and I think also access to the United States market is critical to the Indian government.  We do want to make sure that we get this balance right.  We want to address a bunch — a lot of concerns, and we’re not quite there yet,” the senior administration official said.

 

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