Donald Trump strikes £2.3bn arms deal with India as religious tensions turn violent

The US President said the two countries would sign deals on Tuesday to sell military helicopters and that America must become the premier defence partner of India, which relied on Russian equipment during the Cold War. The Republican leader was given a hero’s welcome at Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad on Monday as he and the First Lady walked onto the stage alongside Mr Modi to the roar of the crowds. On his first trip to India since entering the Oval Office, Mr Trump stressed his country enjoyed a “very good” relationship with Pakistan.  

He said: “I believe the United States should be India’s premier defence partner, and that’s the way it’s working out.”  

He also touched on the growing lack of religious harmony in India, mentioning the importance of unity among all faiths. The stadium in the city about 580 miles from New Delhi appeared to have been filled to its 110,000 capacity.  

In his own speech, India’s leader praised his American counterpart, saying he “thinks big”.  

His announcement about a £2.3bn ($3bn) arms deal came after reports said India had cleared the purchase of 24 helicopters from Lockneed Martin worth $2.6billion. 

India and the US have both been working to combat terrorism on the Pakistan border.  

Mr Trump said: “Our relationship with Pakistan is a very good one thanks to these efforts.  

“We are beginning to see signs of big progress with Pakistan.”  

Mr Modi may have been annoyed by the president’s decision to make such comments on Indian soil.  

India and Pakistan have been embroiled in a long-running dispute over Kashmir.  

And his call for religious unity may also have gotten under Mr Modi’s skin.  

Since his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP government came to power in 2014 attacks on religious minorities have been on the up.  

Christians and Muslims have been hit particularly hard in a spate of attacks in recent years.  

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Sikhs and Buddhists have also been targetted by hardcore Hindu nationalists – but to a lesser extent.  

Many of Mr Modi’s followers want to turn India into a homeland for Hindus.  

In a sign of the underlying political tensions in India, violent protests broke out in Delhi on Monday.  

Thirteen people were killed in protests as Muslim and Hindu groups faced off over a controversial new Indian citizenship law.  

Critics argue the law discriminates against followers of Islam and is a further attempt to undermine the secular foundations of India’s democracy. 

The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has been the subject of widespread protests since it was passed last year.  

The law makes it easier for non-Muslims from three neighbouring Muslim-dominated countries to gain Indian citizenship. 

India’s junior home minister G. Kishan Reddy claimed the violence was “a conspiracy to defame India”, at a time when Mr Trump was visiting the country. 

Some of those protesting at the citizenship law alleged, however, that Modi’s ruling BJP and its supporters were targeting Muslims and instigating the violence. 

Mohammad Shakir, a demonstrator opposed to the law said: “We have no weapons, but they are firing at us.”  

“This BJP is targeting Muslims. They want to turn India into a Hindu country.” 

The BJP denies any bias against India’s more than 180 million minority Muslims. 

Mr Trump will conclude his two-day visit on Tuesday. 

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