Trump defends Modi, refuses to weigh in on citizenship law

NEW DELHI (AP) — President Donald Trump is refusing to speak out against a controversial new Indian citizenship law that has sparked deadly protests in New Delhi as he wraps up his visit to the country.

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a formal welcome to India's presidential palace on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (Source: CNN/POOL)

Trump said he would leave questions about the law to India, speaking a day after at least seven people, including a police officer, were killed on Monday.

Trump says he raised the issue of religious freedom with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and insisted Modi was “incredible” on the subject.

The law provides fast-track naturalization for some foreign-born religious minorities but not Muslims, raising fears the country is inching nearer to a religious citizenship test.

Trump lashed out at Supreme Court justices and his Democratic rivals during the second and final day of his trip.

The president wrapped up a jam-packed day in the Indian capital by holding a solo news conference and attending an opulent state dinner.

Trump set aside the long-standing tradition of avoiding domestic political squabbles while on foreign soil.

He bashed his Democratic rivals and warned of economic turmoil at home if he loses his bid for reelection in November.

He told a meeting of Indian business leaders that the U.S. economy is being held back by the upcoming presidential election. Trump says the U.S. stock market will soar if he wins a second term.

But he warns that “if the wrong person gets elected, everything will come to a halt” and unemployment will rise.

And he repeated his call for two liberal-leaning Supreme Court justices — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor — to recuse themselves from cases involving him or his administration.

He also said he had not been briefed on intelligence suggesting that Russia is meddling in the 2020 election, either to bolster him or Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

He said, “Nobody ever told me that.”

Trump’s two-day visit to India delved into substance Tuesday after opening with a heavy dose of pomp and pageantry, even as few concrete accomplishments were expected from the whirlwind trip.

Trump called his trip to India “unforgettable,” “extraordinary” and an expression of “love” as he delivered a joint statement earlier Tuesday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi following their bilateral talks.

Trump announced that India has signed a deal to purchase more than $3 billion of advanced military equipment, including helicopters. And he says the two leaders made progress on what he describes as a “comprehensive trade deal” after talks.

Trump said he and first lady Melania Trump “have been awed by the majesty of India” and will “always remember the magnificent welcome” they received upon their arrival. He lavished praise on Modi, joking that the thousands of people who attended an earlier welcome rally for him at a huge stadium were there more for Modi than himself.

Speaking at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Trump said that “every time” he mentioned Modi’s name, there were cheers, “so they love you in India and that’s a good thing.”

Modi was re-elected with a huge mandate, leading his Hindu nationalist party to a massive victory in the 2019 election.

Trump’s second day on the subcontinent kicked off with an elaborate outdoor welcome ceremony in front of the grand Rashtrapati Bhavan Presidential Palace in New Delhi. The president’s armored car, nicknamed “The Beast,” was greeted at the palace with cannon fire and accompanied by a parade of colorfully-dressed soldiers on horseback.

Trump and the first lady also tossed colorful flower petals on a memorial to Mohandas Gandhi.

New violence erupts in Indian capital over citizenship law, day after at least 7 killed

Police say new violence has erupted in the Indian capital a day after at least seven people, including a police officer, were killed and more than 100 others were reportedly injured in clashes between hundreds of supporters and opponents of a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims.

They say protesters in several areas of northeastern New Delhi defied orders prohibiting the assembly of more than five people and threw stones and set some shops and vehicles on fire. Some homes were attacked with rocks.

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