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Trump, Modi seek rapport despite friction on trade, immigration

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U.S. President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold their first face-to-face meeting in Washington on Monday, seeking to boost U.S.-Indian relations despite differences over trade, the Paris climate accord and immigration.

Their White House session promises less pomp than Modi’s previous visits to Washington, which included former President Barack Obama taking him to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in 2014.

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But Trump administration officials have pointed to both leaders’ impact on social media – each has more than 30 million Twitter followers – as proof that they are cut from the same cloth, and predicted the two would get along well.

Trump built a Trump Tower property in Mumbai and spoke warmly of India during his presidential campaign last year.

“The White House is very interested in making this a special visit,” said one senior official. “We’re really seeking to roll out the red carpet,”

Modi will try to strengthen ties that have appeared to loosen. Indian officials, noting both men’s tendency to speak their mind, were anxious to see how they get along.

They will have one-on-one talks followed by statements to the news media without taking questions. They will then have a working dinner, the first time Trump has played host to a foreign dignitary at a White House dinner.

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“If the chemistry is good, everything else gets sorted,” said an Indian official. “The only way is up. How much up we go depends on the leaders. If they click, we go up higher.”

While progress is expected in defense trade and cooperation, there are frictions elsewhere.

Trump, who campaigned on an “America First” platform, has been troubled by the growing U.S. trade deficit with India. He has called for reform of the H-1B visa system that has benefited Indian tech firms.

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He set the United States on a path to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and accused India of negotiating unscrupulously for the accord in order to walk away with billions of dollars in aid.

Meanwhile, Indian officials reject suggestions that Modi’s “Make in India” platform is protectionist and complain about the U.S. regulatory process for generic pharmaceuticals and rules on fruit exports to the United States.

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They stress the importance of the huge Indian market to U.S. firms and major growth in areas such as aviation, which offer significant opportunities for U.S. manufacturers.

Rick Rossow, an India expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the frictions in U.S.-Indian relations since Trump took office on Jan. 20 add gravity to the meeting.

“The meeting will provide more clarity on whether the past six months have been Act 1 in a surprising friendship or Round 1 of a protracted slugging match,” he said.

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(Editing by Caren Bohan and Bill Rigby)


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You’re a frog in a pot and Donald Trump is turning up the heat

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

"Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal," reported The Washington Post this week. It's one element in "a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election." It's unclear what criteria they are using to define loyalty to this president*, but it's important to understand a few things about this story.

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According to a report from CNN, longtime Justice Department officials are concerned that Attorney General Bill Barr will do all he can to stay out of Donald Trump's sight and not interfere now that he was caught up in a squabble with the president over the sentencing of Trump associate Roger Stone.

CNN notes that Barr had previously watched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be swept up in the president's Ukraine scandal -- damaging the State Department official's reputation -- and hoped to keep a low profile in the president's public disputes.

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Trump’s India visit expected to boost exposure of his struggling properties in the country: report

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President Donald Trump heads off to India next Monday where his high profile visit may give a boost to his sagging fortunes at some of his properties in a country that happens to be the Trump Organization’s largest foreign market featuring the Trump name.

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