United States President Donald Trump has complimented Indian trade negotiators as "the best" and said trade talks between the two countries were moving along.
"We are trying very hard to make better trade deals with India," he said during a White House Diwali celebration on Tuesday.
Showing the trade negotiators as highly skilled and making the talks sound difficult for the Americans, he said, "They are very good traders, they are very good negotiators." And turning to India’s Ambassador Navtej Sarna, he said, "You would say (that), right?"
They are "the best," and "so we are working and it is moving along," he added.
The annual celebration was held a week later because Diwali fell on the day after the mid-term elections when the results were still coming in.
He repeatedly spoke of his close ties to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He said, "We love your country. And I have great, great respect, as you know, for your Prime Minister Modi."
And he told Sarna, "So please give him my warmest regards. We will be talking to him soon.a
"The United States has deep ties to the nation of India and I am grateful for my friendship with Prime Minister Modi," he said.
He also recalled that his daughter had met Modi during a visit to India and he was now also her friend.
He said, "India is the world’s largest democracy. And the relationship between our two countries can act as a bulwark for freedom, prosperity and peace."
"We are very close and I think closer than ever before," Trump said, and Sarna agreed, saying, "Absolutely, sir."
"I think that we are looking at one of the best times we have ever had for the India-US relationship," Sarna said.
He added that the Indian-American community was a "plus plus for both India and for the United States."
Last month Trump had denounced India as the "tariff king" and asserted that he had spoke to Modi, who told him that he would reduce the tariffs on imports from the US.
Trump has made the US trade deficit a focus of his presidency, imposing heavy taxes on a range of Chinese imports, threatening other countries over trade and renegotiating trade agreements with Mexico and Canada.
The total value of US-India goods and services trade last year was $126.2 billion and the US ran a $27.3 billion deficit.
Earlier this year, Trump announced tariffs of 25 percent on steel steel and 10 percent on aluminum imported from India and other countries.
New Delhi has threatened retaliatory duties on US agricultural products it imports like nuts and apples, as well as some chemicals.
In one concession to a pet peeve of Trump, India dropped the duties on Harley Davidson motorcycles from 75 percent to 50 percent.>