NEW DELHI (AFP) – India rolled out the red carpet yesterday for United States (US) President Donald Trump on the second day of a visit high on spectacular optics, but deadly unrest exposed religious tensions that his host is accused of stoking.
The violence in New Delhi on Monday just as Trump arrived began as a standoff between supporters and opponents of a new citizenship law but degenerated into running battles between religious groups, local media reported.
The five dead in Delhi’s northeastern fringes included a police officer. More than 90 people were also wounded, police and hospital sources said, as the rioters armed with stones and even guns went on the rampage, setting fire to buildings and vehicles.
The authorities responded with tear gas and smoke grenades, sending in paramilitary security forces, shutting schools and banning the assembly of more than four people in the areas affected. Further rioting was reported yesterday.
A senior US official told reporters that Trump would raise concerns about religious freedom during his lightning visit, calling them “extremely important to this administration”.
Yesterday Trump and Melania, in a buttoned-down floral print shirt dress, were given a ceremonial welcome with red-coated and turbaned mounted troops, booming cannons and the Stars and Stripes.
Shedding their shoes they then laid a wreath and showered petals at the open-air memorial where independence hero Mahatma Gandhi was cremated before they planted a sappling. But then Trump and Modi got down to brass tacks.
Behind the bonhomie and photo opportunities, a comprehensive trade deal between the world’s biggest economy and the country projected soon to be its most populous looks remote.
While small fry compared to his trade war with China, Trump has imposed tariffs on Indian steel and aluminium and suspended duty-free access for certain goods.
Modi, whose “Make in India” mantra echoes Trump’s “America First” slogan, has responded with higher tariffs on certain US goods like USD600 million worth of almonds.
Trump has called India the “tariff king”, and said before his visit that Asia’s third-largest economy had been “hitting us very, very hard for many, many years”.
Away from trade, Trump and Modi will reportedly sign USD3 billion worth of defence deals and discuss a USD1.9-billion missile defence shield.