Trump praises India’s Modi for purchases of US armaments
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump offered ebullient appreciation for Indian purchases of U.S military equipment as he welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House on Monday.
“Thank you very much,” Trump said as he opened a meeting with Modi and an accompanying delegation. It “always makes us feel very good, and there’s nobody makes military equipment like we make military equipment, nobody even close.”
Modi came to Washington with an armaments shopping list that includes Predator drones, fighter jets and U.S. help with India’s plans for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Trump didn’t specify what arms sales would proceed, but India announced a deal earlier this month to buy warplanes from Lockheed Martin Corp., and Indian media reported the U.S. cleared the way for a sale of unarmed drones.
The Indian prime minister also came seeking to persuade Trump to continue the H-1B visa program that provides a crucial pathway for information-technology companies to send skilled workers from India to the U.S. as well as access to sophisticated military equipment.
The meeting brought together two nationalist leaders who have made efforts to boost their domestic manufacturing industry signature issues. Trump’s “America First” slogan echo’s Modi’s own “Make in India” campaign.
India’s trading relationship with the U.S. is especially critical to Modi, with exports to the U.S. providing India’s largest surplus with a trading partner — more than $24 billion in 2016 — for a country that ran a $105 billion deficit that year.
Modi met Trump after meetings Sunday with business leaders including Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos.
India has pushed forward on its defense purchases, including unarmed Predator drones for which it had negotiated during the Obama administration. The U.S. on Friday cleared the sale of 22 Predator Guardian drones to India, Press Trust of India reported.
Earlier this month, Lockheed Martin signed deals for production of F-16 Block 70 combat jets in India, according to a joint statement.
Modi also planned to press the case for the H-1B visa program, which is disproportionately used by Indians working in the technology industry.
In April, Trump signed an executive order that proposes to replace the current lottery system for issuing H-1B work visas with a merit-based approach. The U.S. also is reviewing the visa program for foreign workers to curb its misuse.
(With assistance from Jennifer Jacobs. Olorunnipa reported from Washington and Chaudhary from New Delhi.)
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