India’s Modi heads to Washington for ‘no frills’ Trump meet

India’s leader heads to the US this weekend for his first meeting with President Donald Trump, seeking to build on growing ties between the world’s two largest democracies and move beyond disagreements over climate change.

Relations between New Delhi and Washington warmed under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama as India sought greater foreign investment and trade ties with Western nations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed to work closely with the Trump administration, but obstacles soon emerged on issues such as trade and visas for Indians wanting to work in the United States.

Then Trump accused India of seeking to profit from the Paris climate accord as he announced he was pulling out of the deal this month — drawing sharp denials from New Delhi.

Officials were eager to downplay expectations of the visit that begins on Sunday, describing it as “no frills” — in contrast to Modi’s first US visit in 2014, when he basked in a rock star welcome at the Madison Square Garden arena in New York and addressed the United Nations.

“If there’s one thing we want (from the visit), it’s chemistry,” said one senior Indian official. “If the chemistry is good then frankly everything else gets sorted.”

Some commentators have argued that Modi and Trump should have a natural affinity as political outsiders who have risen to power in part by castigating the traditional ruling elite on a nationalist platform.

One US official said the two leaders had a “lot in common” and noted Modi would be the first foreign dignitary to have a working dinner at the White House under the new administration.

“We are really seeking to roll out the red carpet,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

– ‘Make in India’ –

Trump’s protectionist instincts, however, are at odds with India’s efforts to boost exports and encourage Western manufacturers to “Make In India” — a flagship Modi scheme.

The Indian premier castigated “rising parochial and protectionist attitudes” in a speech delivered shortly…

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