The long-pending visit of US President Donald Trump to India will finally take place on February 24-25, both New Delhi and Washington have confirmed.

“The President and First Lady Melania Trump will travel to New Delhi and Ahmedabad, which is in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home State of Gujarat and played such an important role in Mahatma Gandhi’s life and leadership of the Indian Independence movement,” said a statement from the White House.

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The two sides may also try to seal a limited trade deal before the visit so that it can be announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump during the visit, an official said. “Discussions on the trade deal are on, with the US pushing for concessions in medical devices and agricultural products,” the official added.

Modi and Trump spoke to each other on the phone over the weekend, confirming the latter’s scheduled visit, the statement said. “During a phone call over the weekend, President Trump and Prime Minister Modi agreed the trip will further strengthen the United States-India strategic partnership and highlight the strong and enduring bonds between the American and Indian people,” it added.

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Long-due visit

A Trump visit has been under discussion since early last year, when he turned down India’s invitation to participate in the Republic Day celebrations as chief guest due to “scheduling constraints”. There were some reports that the US was unhappy with India’s decision to go ahead with the S-400 missile deal with Russia and hence the invitation was declined, but US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster had denied it.

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Later, in September, after Modi and Trump’s meetings in New York and Houston, there was a buzz that the US President may visit by November if the trade deal that both the leaders had discussed materialised; this, too, did not happen.

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Election preparations

The visit this month is well timed, as Trump is likely to get caught up in preparations for the Presidential elections, scheduled for November.

“The visit will provide an opportunity for the two leaders to review progress in bilateral ties and further strengthen our strategic partnership,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. “The relationship has further evolved under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and President Trump, with significant progress in all areas including trade, defence, counter-terrorism, energy, coordination on regional and global issues as well as people-to-people ties.”

Trump and Melania will attend official engagements in the national capital and Ahmedabad, and interact with a cross-section of the society.