His visit comes at a time of immense uncertainty and unpredictability in Indian-US relations.
Earlier this month, he singled out India during his announcement declaring the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Top of the leaders’ agenda will be the H1-B visa rehaul, the fight against terror and expanding on bilateral relations with the new administration.
Unlike the feverish anticipation over past meetings between Modi and former President Barack Obama, expectations for Modi’s face-to-face with Trump are lukewarm
We spoke to five young Indians about the importance of bilateral ties between the two countries and what they make of Trump.
Harshit Tibrewal, 22, is a software engineer working for a start-up. He believes good relations between the world’s oldest and the world’s biggest democracies are vital, especially given India’s rise in the global order.
“I think the relationship between the US and India is very strong, because a lot of trade happens between the two, a lot of people from here go to work and study there. Both countries are superpowers and Modi going to meet with Trump shows that the relationship is strong and getting stronger. It’s very good to have such a good relationship with a strong country.”
His sunny outlook comes despite being in an occupation hardest hit by Trump’s visa crackdown.
“I don’t think it (H1-B visa reform) will affect Indians. Most of these software companies need us,” says Tibrewal.
Indian firms like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro use the H-1B program to send thousands of engineers to the US.
Around 70% of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued annually go to Indian workers.
According to Tibrewal, Trump’s America First agenda could actually backfire on him — and the US.
“Indians have great minds of their own. Quoting Bill Gates, ‘If I stopped hiring Indians, another Microsoft would have opened in India’. Donald Trump should know this too.”
Twenty-year-old Kanika Sethi is a recent commerce graduate. While she understands the importance of relations between India and the US, she’s skeptical about Trump’s leadership.
“Donald Trump is a rich leader. I can’t say whether he is a good or bad leader. But the first thing that comes to mind is money.”
Between Modi’s election in 2014 and Obama leaving office at the beginning of 2017, the two leaders met eight times. A record for leaders of the two nations. Obama is also the only sitting US President to have visited India twice while in office.
“There’s no comparison with Obama. Obama was the best.”
Yakita Somani, 20, also a commerce graduate, is more pragmatic about the upcoming visit especially on the hot button topic of H1-B visa restrictions.
“The first preference is given to American people and that’s absolutely right. In India, if we protest for our rights, then that’s the same thing. Indians there (the United States) who are facing discrimination and inequality, I feel you need to struggle for something. It’s their policy and being the most powerful country, they don’t need to think about the entire world.”
At the same time, she is aware that forging closer ties with the United States is crucial for India.
“I feel America is the most powerful country, so if India is tied up with a country of this position, it will be beneficial i areas such as defense, security and many other things. Our country will become powerful.”
Surya Hooda, 22, wants to become a civil servant and is currently studying for his exams.
“India’s relations with America are very important. During Obama’s time, they were on the rise. Now, Trump and his administration are going back on a lot of policies that the Obama administration employed.”
“Trump has pulled back from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). India was not a part of the TPP so now there’s an opportunity where we can directly establish bilateral relations directly with the US so that’s a plus point.”
Just weeks after coming into office, Trump formally withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation deal that had been negotiated under Obama.
For India though, closer ties can be explored not only with the United States but also the other 11 countries that made up the TPP
, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Twenty-two-year-old Kilang Walling is an engineering graduate.
He describes Trump as a “loudmouth” and “not the kind of person you find in power.”
However, like the other young people CNN spoke with, he understands the importance of US-Indian relations, especially in South Asia.
“India is growing in terms of power and the economy. Both India and the US need to cooperate. And because India is surrounded by not so friendly countries like China and Pakistan, India needs the US and the US also needs India because America and China also don’t function well.”
For Walling, the issue he wants to see most discussed during Modi’s visit is the US’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
“He (Trump) shouldn’t have done that. America being a leader and a forward thinking country, he shouldn’t have pulled out.”
“I feel very strongly about the Paris deal. How the world is going, how climate change is going. It’s essential that every human being needs to worry about this because we need sustainability. It’s not only about living today, there are generations to come so we have to worry about this.”