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Trump’s visit to India sparks hero’s welcome along with protests

In his first official visit to India, President Trump was greeted largely with warmth and enthusiasm. But his arrival, at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is facing widespread criticism for a new law that opens pathways to citizenship for non-Muslim immigrants from neighboring countries, also touched off demonstrations against the two leaders. Special correspondent Neha Poonia reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Now to American politics abroad.

    President Trump in India is receiving a warm welcome from the prime minister and crowds in a packed stadium.

    But as special correspondent Neha Poonia reports from Delhi, that embrace is also met with protests.

  • Neha Poonia:

    President Trump got a hug from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he deplaned, a symbol of closeness both men hoped to project during Mr. Trump's first official visit to India.

    Throngs of people lined the streets in Ahmedabad as the presidential motorcade passed billboards that showed a smiling Mr. Trump and touted the India-U.S. friendship.

  • Woman:

    And the honorable president of United States of America, Mr. Donald Trump.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Neha Poonia:

    The day's centerpiece was a rally with more than 100,000 people in Motera Stadium, the world's largest cricket ground.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi (through translator):

    Namaste Trump.

  • Neha Poonia:

    Greeted by raucous cheers at the event called Namaste or Welcome Trump, the president heaped praise on his host.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Let me begin by expressing my profound gratitude to an exceptional leader, a great champion of India, a man who works night and day for his country and a man I am proud to call my true friend. Prime Minister Modi.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Neha Poonia:

    He drew loud applause when he lauded India's anti-terrorism efforts.

  • President Donald Trump:

    The United States and India are also firmly united in our ironclad resolve to defend our citizens from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Neha Poonia:

    The event was heavy with pageantry, but President Trump hinted a trade agreement between the two countries is imminent.

  • President Donald Trump:

    And I am pleased to announce that, tomorrow, our representatives will sign deals to sell over $3 billion in the absolute finest state-of-the-art military helicopters and other equipment to the Indian armed forces.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Neha Poonia:

    Like the president, Prime Minister Modi has built his base on populism and nationalism, and he had warm praise for his American counterpart.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi (through translator):

    President Trump's visit to India with his family is giving the India-U.S. relations an identity with sweetness and close ties, as in a family.

  • Neha Poonia:

    Today's visit comes after President Trump hosted Modi in Houston last September; 50,000 people filled a football stadium for the event dubbed Howdy Modi.

    Now the Indian leader is returning the favor at a time when his Hindu nationalist party is under fire for alleged discrimination against non-Hindus. A new citizenship law passed in December opens citizenship channels for non-Muslims from neighboring countries, but excludes Muslims.

    It has touched off months of protests and violence, with dozens killed. And there were new clashes today.

    But outside the rally in Ahmedabad, excitement over President Trump's visit ran high.

  • Kruti Vaishnav:

    The crowd, we are all getting crazy. We are all very excited. And I feel like this will improve our international ties.

  • Himmat Prajapati:

    This meeting is like a god is coming into our country.

  • Neha Poonia:

    Meanwhile, in New Delhi, supporters of Modi staged a separate event also in praise of the Trump visit.

    This is a sight more commonly seen in temples across India, but, in this case, it's a special prayer meet organized in honor of the American president, Donald Trump.

    We have got several priests here have been praying, they say, for better Indo-U.S. ties, and also for the reelection of Donald Trump in the upcoming American polls. The group that's organized this prayer meet calls itself the Hindu Sena, or the Army of Hindus, and they refer to Donald Trump as their hero, because they think he is the savior of all mankind.

  • Ved Murti Shashtri:

    In India, we believe our guests are as good as God. And to us Donald Trump is God. So we prayed that Trump gets more power to fight radical Islam and for Modi and Trump to become closer allies.

  • Neha Poonia:

    Across the country, the welcome wasn't as warm.

    In New Delhi, protesters with the Communist Party of India held signs saying, "Fascist Trump, go back." And in Kolkata, protesters burned an effigy of Mr. Trump.

    In the evening, the president and first lady toured the Taj Mahal in Agra. They returned to New Delhi for the night, before meetings tomorrow and the possible announcement of a trade deal.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Neha Poonia in Delhi.

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