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How to impress Trump: Indian city builds a wall and plans to fill a stadium

Shashank Bengalia and Parth M.N., Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

AHMEDABAD, India -- When the leaders of China and Japan visited this western Indian city in recent years, civic officials hung a giant piece of fabric along a stretch of road, hiding a slum of about 1,000 families from the official motorcades.

Local children eventually tore down the fabric. So when Ahmedabad prepared to welcome its highest profile foreign visitor yet, the city decided there was only one thing to do.

For President Trump, they built a wall.

"Build that wall" may be a political rallying cry for Trump in the U.S., where he has dreamed of erecting a barrier to keep out migrants from Mexico, but in India officials barely hesitate to conceal, evict or tear down the homes of slum-dwellers when the occasion demands it.

And Ahmedabad, sun-scorched and decidedly unglamorous, has rarely seen a spectacle like what is expected Monday, when Trump arrives to kick off a two-day official visit to India, the first of his presidency.

The city is decked out with colorful paintings on street walls. Roads that Trump's motorcade will travel on have been repaired or re-laid. U.S. and Indian flags have been put up on either side of the main road, along with larger-than-life cutouts of Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


Large billboards with pictures of the two leaders have gone up with messages that read, "Welcome to the land of Mahatma Gandhi," and "World's largest democracy meets world's oldest democracy."

Trump is expected to spend just three hours in Ahmedabad, but the state government of Gujarat is reportedly spending about $14 million on the visit. More than 10,000 police personnel have also been deployed in the city of 5.5 million.

This is the first time a sitting American president has visited Ahmedabad, an anonymous destination for much of the world but a major industrial city and the source of a large diaspora in the U.S. It is also the home of both Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India's independence movement, and Modi, who led the state as chief minister before becoming prime minister in 2014.

Trump's visit follows Modi's visit in September to the U.S., where the two leaders walked beside each other at a rock concert in Houston in front of 50,000 Indian Americans.


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