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US concessions to India is because of fondness for PM Modi, says Trump

New Delhi/Washington, Feb 19 (IANS) President Donald Trump on Tuesday said that though India’s treatment of the US has not been flattering but he is willing to compromise because of his fondness for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Trump was alluding to one of his favorite peeves, India’s high tariffs on US imports and the US trade deficit with India. He has repeatedly called India “the tariff king” and has been complaining about the $25 billion trade gap, which is just a tiny fraction of the deficit the US has with China.

On Tuesday, while grumbling about it indirectly, the US President told reporters at Air Force One’s Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, a week ahead of his two-day visit to India, “We’re not treated very well by India, but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot.”

The US and India have been negotiating over a limited trade deal which Trump and Modi may sign during his upcoming trip. But “the big trade deal” with India, Trump said, is being saved for later and may not necessarily happen before the US presidential elections. He attributed the US concession to his preference for Prime Minister Modi.

The two leaders have shared an exceptional chemistry ever since they first met. Last year, during their four meetings, Trump and Modi made it obvious to the world that they go beyond the strategic relations between the US and India. While President Trump graced the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston last year, Prime Minister Modi lionised him and his leadership before 50,000 Indian Americans.

Trump, Modi said, was a household name and very popular even before he went to occupy the highest office in the US. “From CEO, to commander-in-chief, from board rooms to the Oval Office, from studios to the global stage, from politics to the economy and security, he has left a deep and lasting impact everywhere,” he said in his honor.

On the other hand, President Trump called him the “father of India” who had brought a “torn” country together. “Like a father would bring it together. Maybe he is the father of India. We will call him the father of India. He brought things together, you don’t hear that anymore,” Trump had said at the event.

The pictures and videos of a Prime Minister Modi guffawing and high-fiving President Trump splashed across news portals, when the latter praised him in front of the American media.

This personal chemistry, many in the bureaucracy in New Delhi, believe has helped India to get several exemptions and concessions from the US. Even as US imposed penalties on its trading partners for buying oil from Tehran with which it has strenuous relations, it exempted India from certain sanctions for development of Chabahar port in Iran. The US also granted a limited waiver to India under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act or CAATSA for buying the Russian S-400 air defence missile system.

“The personal rapport between the two leaders has been remarkable,” a top official said underlining that it comes from sharing a common world view and philosophy. Both Trump and Modi are seen as right-wing disruptors in their own distinctive ways, to the entrenched systems established by the Left-liberal political parties in the US and India, respectively.

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