Trump in early stages of planning first visit to India

A 2017 photo ahows Trump (right) and Modi hugging at the White House.
A 2017 photo ahows Trump (right) and Modi hugging at the White House.PHOTO: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump is in the early stages of planning what would be his first visit to India, officials in the US and Indian governments said on Tuesday (Jan 14).

The two sides are discussing mutually agreeable dates for Trump's visit as a guest of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, likely towards the end of February and after the conclusion of his impeachment trial in the US Senate, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Trump's travel plans have not been formalised.

Two Indian newspapers reported on Tuesday on the planned presidential visit.

The US Embassy in New Delhi referred questions to the White House, which declined comment.

Trump and Modi exchanged New Year's greetings in a Jan 6 telephone call.

A White House statement at the time made no mention of Trump's interest in visiting India.

The leaders have developed a warm relationship over the past few years.

During their first White House meeting in June 2017, Modi bear-hugged Trump several times following a joint news conference in the Rose Garden.

And last September, Trump travelled to Houston to speak at a rally for Modi before an audience of 50,000 Indian Americans.

Several days after that Texas event, Trump suggested - as he and Modi met in New York during the UN General Assembly - that the prime minister be known as the "father of India" because of his success uniting the nation.

Since then, however, the two-term prime minister has been the subject of sometimes violent and deadly protests against a new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims.