Describing India as “best trade negotiators”, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday commended the relations of the two countries as he celebrated Diwali in the White House along with top Indian-Americans.
“The United States has deep ties to the nation of India and I am grateful for my friendship with Prime Minister Modi,” Trump said before lighting the ceremonial Diya inside the historic Roosevelt Room of the White House. It is the second consecutive year that Trump has celebrated the largest festival of India and Indian Americans in the White House.
“We’re trying very hard to make better trade deals with India. But, they’re very good traders. They’re very good negotiators. You would say right. The best. So we’re working. And it’s moving along,” Trump said referring to the India-US trade deal negotiations that have started between the two largest democracies of the world, reported PTI.
The US president also acknowledged his friendship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and added that his daughter Ivanka, who was the first top official of the Trump administration to travel to India, is also friends with him.
“Modi is my friend and now her (Ivanka) friend and has great respect for India and the Indian people that I can say,” he said as he introduced Ivanka to the audience.
Along with nearly two dozen top Indian American officials of his Administration, President Trump had invited the Indian Ambassador to the US, Navtej Singh Sarna, his wife Dr Avina Sarna, and his special assistant Pratik Mathur to be present during the White House Diwali celebrations, a rare gesture. Sarna said the two countries are “looking at one of the best times we ever had in India-US relationship.” “I think, that’s true. Very close, closer than ever before,” said the US President.
“India is the world’s largest democracy and the relationship between our two countries connect as a bulwark for freedom, prosperity, and peace,” PTI quoted him as saying.
In his remarks, Trump welcomed senior Indian American officials gathered at the White House for Diwali celebration. “As we light the Diya in the White House we are joined by in a fellowship with all of those who light lamps in their own home, cities and places of worship. America is a land of faith and we are truly fortunate to have these wonderful traditions woven into the tapestry of our national life. And that is true,” he said.
Trump said that he is thrilled to celebrate Diwali at the White House.
“I’m honored to host this beautiful ceremony at the White House. Very, very special people. We’re gathered today to celebrate a very special holiday observed by Buddhist, Sikhs and Jains throughout the United States and around the world. Hundreds of millions of people have gathered with family and friends to light the Diya and to mark the beginning of a New year: very special new year,” he said.
It was my great honor to host a celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, in the Roosevelt Room at the @WhiteHouse this afternoon. Very, very special people! https://t.co/kQk7IvpSFo pic.twitter.com/tYlBABg4JF
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2018
“Our nation is blessed to be home to millions of hardworking citizens of Indian and South East Asian heritage to enrich our country in countless ways. Together we are one proud American family. Do we agree with that? I think so. I think we do. Right? Better, believe it,” he said.
Diwali at White House in past
The first White House Diwali celebrations were held in 2003 under the then US President George W Bush, who never attended Diwali celebrations in person. A senior administration official represented him. It was mostly held in the India Treaty Room of Executive Office Building, which is part of the White House complex.
Since 2003, Diwali celebrations at the White House has become an annual tradition. In 2009, President Barack Obama lighted the ceremonial lamp in the East Room of the White House. The event was attended by about 200 guests.
In 2013, First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated Diwali in the East Room. Immediately before the celebrations, she participated in a Bollywood dance with local students in the State Dining Room. In 2016, Obama celebrated Diwali in the Oval Office with a group of Indian Americans officials from his administration.
In 2016, Vice President Biden hosted a Diwali reception at his official residence Number One Observatory Circle. In 2017 President Trump celebrated his first Diwali in the Oval Office with Amb Nikki Haley, senior officials from his administration and a small group of Indian Americans.
Over the years, it is being celebrated by the Indian Americans in Pentagon and the State Department. For the past several years, Diwali is also being celebrated at the US Capitol by Rep and Senators, being hosted by India Caucus.
(With inputs from PTI)