As the first ever visit of US President Donald Trump to India is round the corner, he will raise the issue of religious freedom with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his trip, the White House said on Friday, noting that the US has great respect for India’s democratic traditions and institutions.
“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,” a senior official told reporters in a conference call.
The official was responding to a question on whether the President was planning to speak to PM Modi on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) or the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
“We do have this shared commitment to upholding our universal values, the rule of law. We have great respect for India’s democratic traditions and institutions, and we will continue to encourage India to uphold those traditions,” the official said.
“And we are concerned with some of the issues that you have raised,” the senior administration official said, in response to the question on the CAA and NRC.
“I think 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,” the official said.
“Of course, it’s in the Indian Constitution — religious freedom, respect for religious minorities, and equal treatment of all religions. So this is something that is important to the President and I’m sure it will come up,” said the official.
Pointing out that India has a strong democratic foundation, the official said India is a country rich in religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. “In fact, it’s the birthplace of four major world religions,” the official said.
“Prime Minister Modi, in his first speech after winning the election last year, talked about how he would prioritise being inclusive of India’s religious minorities. And, certainly, the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law,” said the senior administration official.
President Trump along with his wife and First Lady Melania Trump will be on a two-day visit in India on February 24 and 25 at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This will be US President Trump’s first visit to India. It will be his fifth meeting with PM Modi in eight months. There are three legs to the US President’s visit with his first stop at Ahmedabad, followed by Agra and finally Delhi.
The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said the ‘Namaste Trump’ event scheduled to be held in Ahmedabad for the American President next week will be similar to the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event held in Houston last September.
The ‘Namaste Trump’ event is being organised by the Donald Trump Nagrik Abhinandan Samiti.
Meanwhile, India hopes to sign a trade deal with the United States during Trump’s visit. However, the US president said on Wednesday that he might postpone the trade agreement till the US presidential elections.
Over the last three years, President Trump and PM Modi have developed a personal friendship and in 2019, the duo met four times including their joint address before a strong 50,000 crowd of Indian-Americans in Houston.
(With PTI inputs)