US President Donald Trump has said it is a great honour that Facebook has ranked him number one and Prime Minister Narendra Modi number two on their popularity on the social networking site, ahead of his maiden visit to India.
President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will pay a state visit to India on February 24 and 25 at the invitation of Prime Minister Modi, it was announced this week.
Taking to Twitter, he claimed to be the number one on Facebook, citing a remark of Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and chief executive officer of the social media company.
“Great honour, I think? Mark Zuckerberg recently stated that ‘Donald J Trump is number 1 on Facebook. Number 2 is Prime Minister Modi of India.’ Actually, I am going to India in two weeks. Looking forward to it!,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.
This is not the first time that the US president has claimed to be number one and Prime Minister Modi number two on their popularity on Facebook.
Last month, in an interview to CNBC TV, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trump said: “I'm no. 1 on Facebook, you know who’s no.2? Modi from India”.
During his visit to India, Trump, in addition to New Delhi, will also visit Ahmedabad to address a joint public meeting with Modi at a newly-built stadium.
This would be the US president's first bilateral visit in the third decade of the 21st century, and also the first after his acquittal by the Senate in the impeachment trial.
“I think the Trump visit will be a delightful spectacle and utterly successful by many measures,” Ashley Tellis, who is the Tata chair for strategic affairs and a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told PTI.
Trump is expected to get a roaring welcome by lakhs of people when he arrives in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
He, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, are expected to deliver a historic speech in front of hundreds and thousands of people at the newly-built Motera stadium, the largest cricket stadium of the world.
One of the most prominent experts in India, Tellis, however, noted that at the moment, he was unsure whether the trade disputes between the two countries will be resolved.
Senior government officials are tight lipped on this issue, except for making comments in the recent past that the two countries are on the verge of a trade package or a mini trade deal.
“Although the Government of India has claimed that both sides are close to a deal, I don't think there has been real progress — certainly none that will satisfy the US trade representatives. We might get some progress on defense sales, but that’s uncertain too,” Tellis noted.
“Still, both the countries have done well where defense cooperation is concerned under the Trump administration, which is more than can be said for many other US relationships with its allies. I expect this will further deepen in the years ahead,” he said in response to a question.
“Even if the visit produces only good optics, I'll take it all the same if it strengthens Trump’s perceptions of India as a friend. Given his mercurial personality and policies, that is not a small achievement — and I think PM Modi understands that well,” Tellis said.
Rick Rossow, Wadhwani chair in US -India policy studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, hoped that the two leaders can finalise an agreement to remove some of the recent trade irritants.
“My own view is that India keeps digging a deeper hole in triggering trade tensions — notably through steep Customs hikes in its Budget. So, a short-term deal may simply be a reprieve in our trade fight,” Rossow told PTI.
Observing that Trump will be the fourth consecutive president to travel to India, and the second consecutive president to visit India in his first term in office, Rossow was of the view that a visit to India is no longer a significant event.
More than 10,000 police personnel, to be led by 25 senior IPS officers, will be deployed for Trump and Prime Modi’s roadshow in Gujarat on February 24, a senior official said on Saturday.
Explaining Trump’s itinerary, he said, “Once the dignitaries reach Sabarmati Ashram from the airport, the prime minister will explain to them the history and importance of the place, after which they will proceed to Motera stadium”.
More than 0.11 million guests, who were given personal invites, will be present at the stadium, he said, adding that the police are also conducting background checks on the invitees.