President  Trump on Monday was offered a warm welcome during his first trip to India and announced that the U.S. and India would sign a defense deal for New Delhi to purchase over $3 billion in American helicopters and other military equipment.

Addressing a large crowd at a cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, Trump called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “true friend,” touted the bond between the United States and India and expressed a desire to strengthen that bond further.

“Namaste, and hello to India. This is such a great honor,” Trump said at the outset of his remarks. “The first lady and I have just traveled 8,000 miles around the world to deliver a message to every citizen across this nation: America loves India, America respects India, and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people.”

The event was fitting for the American president, who relishes the large crowds that frequent his domestic campaign rallies.

Thousands of people gathered on the streets to watch Trump’s motorcade transit to the cricket stadium for the “Namaste Trump” event on Monday. Many billboards with photos of Trump and Modi lined the route to the stadium.

Trump’s appearance at the Sardar Patel Stadium — the largest cricket stadium in the world with a seating capacity of more than 100,000 — kicked off his two-day stay in India, his first visit to the South Asian country as president.

Trump spoke for roughly 30 minutes, after which he and First Lady Melania Trump departed for a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra. Trump marveled at the crowd size and thanked the Indian people “for the spectacular welcome to your magnificent country.”

Trump complimented India’s contributions to culture and expressed a desire to strengthen the ties between India and the U.S. The president also took an opportunity to plug his own agenda and accomplishments, mentioning the low U.S. unemployment rate and his efforts to revamp the American military.

Trump also confirmed that his trip would include the signing of a deal for India to purchase naval helicopters.

“The United States looks forward to providing India with the best and most feared military equipment on the planet. We make the greatest weapons ever made – airplanes, missiles, rockets, ships. We make the best, and we are dealing now with India,” Trump said.

“I am pleased to announce that tomorrow our representatives will sign deals to sell over $3 billion in the absolute finest, state-of-the-art military helicopters and other equipment to the Indian armed forces,” the president said.

The U.S. and India will also continue discussions on a possible trade agreement over the next two days, though a final deal is not expected, given various points of contention. Trump downplayed the prospect of a deal last week while U.S. officials cited concerns about New Delhi’s increased protectionism.

Still, Trump during his remarks on Monday predicted the U.S. and India would come to an agreement on a “very major — among the biggest ever made — trade deals,” though he said the parties were in the “earlier stage” of discussions.

Trump later told reporters aboard Air Force One that he was in “no rush” to secure a trade deal with India.

“We are doing well with India, we are making deals,” Trump said.

 

Photo: © Getty Images

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