The sun-baked city of Ahmedabad was jostling with activity on Sunday, as workers cleaned roads, planted flowers and hoisted hundreds of billboards featuring US President Donald Trump, a day ahead of his maiden two-day visit to India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised him a boisterous public reception, and hundreds of thousands of people in the north-western city are expected to greet Mr Trump on Monday for a roadshow leading to a massive rally at what has been touted as the world’s largest cricket stadium.
Mr Trump’s motorcade will travel amid cheers from a battery of carefully picked and vetted Modi loyalists and workers from his Bharatiya Janata Party, who will stand for hours alongside the neatly manicured 14-mile stretch of road to give Mr Trump a grand welcome.
Tens of thousands of police officers will be on hand to keep security tight and a new wall has been built in front of a slum, apparently to hide it from passers-by.
Monday’s event is the second act of growing bonhomie between Mr Trump and Mr Modi after they shared a stage last year in Houston at a rally called “Howdy, Modi!” that featured flashy Bollywood musical and dance numbers and was organised by a non-profit group with Hindu nationalist links.
Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist government is pulling out all the stops, at an expense of more than £10 million, to woo the president and first lady Melania Trump. But experts have said that very little of substance will be achieved for either side beyond the pageantry and symbolism.
For Mr Modi, however, the event could be a reprieve from opposition in the country against some of his recent policies, a slumping economy and ongoing protests over a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims.
Experts say a US-India trade pact, which has been in the works from the last three years, seems off the table.
“They’ve been hitting us very hard for many, many years,” Mr Trump said this week, while quickly adding: “I really like Prime Minister Modi.”
Mr Trump is also expected to travel to the 17th-century monument to love, the Taj Mahal.
On Tuesday, he will participate in ceremonial events and meet with government officials, business leaders and US Embassy staff, followed by a dinner at the presidential palace in New Delhi.