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PM off to Portugal on way to U.S. and Netherlands

A charity that provides toilets to poor Indians is leading an effort to rename a village in Haryana after the U.S. president, saying the gesture is meant to honour relations with the U.S. and draw support for better sanitation in India.

The prime minister will be visiting Washington on 24-26 June, at the invitation of President Donald Trump.

The sale of 22 unarmed drones is worth two billion dollars.

But if raised by the Indian side, the Americans are ready for it, the official said.

"We want to avoid a situation that escalates the tension" between India and Pakistan, the official said.

The Indian navy wants the surveillance drones, variants of the Predator drones, to keep watch over the Indian Ocean.

The drones will cost an estimated $2 billion and India will be the first country outside North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to acquire them.

India, a big buyer of U.S. arms that was recently named by Washington as a major defence ally, wants to protect its 7,500- km (4,700-mile) coastline as Beijing expands its maritime trade routes and Chinese submarines increasingly lurk in regional waters.

The state department, which needed to sign off on the sale, is understood to have had reservations about the sale of such high-tech defence equipment to India and whether it could have a destabilising effect on the region.

Defence cooperation, the United States trade deficit with India, counter-terrorism efforts and regional tensions are expected to be discussed between the two leaders.

In a statement before his forthcoming visit to Portugal, the U.S. and the Netherlands, the Prime Minister said the visits were aimed at enhancing bilateral engagement in various areas.

PM Modi's two-day visit to Washington begins tomorrow.

The last Web Summit had 700 participants from India, and the number is expected to go up further this year. "I will also be meeting with CEOs of major Dutch companies and will encourage them to join the Indian growth story", he said.

In a joint address to the media after the signing of 11 bilateral agreements, Modi and his counterpart Antonio Costa said the two countries have made substantial progress in their relations in the past six months.



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