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Fears Of A Global Pandemic Mount As The Coronavirus Cases Spike; President Trump Gets VIP Treatment In His Visit To India; Israeli Military Says It Launched A Series Of Stikes Targeting Militant Group Islamic Jihad In Gaza And Syria; Japan Is Facing Scrutiny Over How They Are Handling The Coronavirus; 23 Passengers Allowed to Leave Cruise Ship Without Proper Testing; Global Stocks Fall as Virus Continues to Spread; G-20 Finance Chiefs Signal Readiness to Act; Narendra Modi's Rise to Prime Minister of India. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired February 24, 2020 - 00:00   ET



NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello from CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Natalie Allen.

Coming up next here on CNN Newsroom, fears of a global pandemic mount as Coronavirus cases spike in South Korea and in Italy.

Donald Trump gets the VIP treatment on a whirlwind visit to India. Narendra Modi aiming to impress with a mega rally for the U.S. president and he lands in one hour.

And in the state of Nevada, a runaway win for Bernie Sanders in the white hot race for 2020 Democratic nomination.

Thank you so much for joining us. Our top story here is the Coronavirus. Turning into what many world health officials have feared, an outbreak surging beyond its epicenter in China, spreading rapidly in Asia and beyond.

On Friday, Italy had just three confirmed cases, now it has more than 150, the largest known outbreak outside of Asia. Most of the cases are in the north of Italy. Italian officials are scrambling to stem the outbreak, even suspending the Venice Carnival.

Revelers who did show up were wearing their carnival masks as well as face masks to keep from getting ill.

Meantime, a World Health Organization official warned, the virus may be getting even hard to contain.

TARIK JASAREVIC, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION SPOKESMAN: We were having a window for opportunity, because a drastic measure that China has put in place in a epicenter of the outbreak was buying some time for other countries to prepare.

But now, we are seeing these very worrying trends in other countries. So -- so without really speculating where we will be going from now, we -- we -- we want to focus on the work with countries, so countries get ready.

ALLEN: South Korea is also facing a massive spike in cases. It now has more than 760, most in the southeastern areas of Daegu and Cheongdo, and the country is raising its crisis alert to its highest level.

For the very latest, we're joined by CNN's Paula Hancocks, she's in Seoul for us. Paula, hello. What is the latest there?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, once again there has been spike in numbers of confirmed cases here in South Korea, and also an increase in the number of deaths. There's now seven that have been confirmed related to the virus itself.

Now, as you say, there is a real focus on a city of two and a half million people, a city called Daegu. It's about three and half hours drive south of the capital. And this particular area is where we have seen the majority of these cases over recent days.

And the majority of those cases have been related to one particular religious group. We understand of the 763 confirmed cases, health officials say 455 have been associated with just this one religious group.

Now, just in the last few hours, we understand that certain Korean airlines have -- have stopped and suspended flights to Daegu and the surrounding area. We understand it's Korean Air, Asiana, a couple of low cost carriers as well, are suspending those flights until at least early March at this point. And there are -- the mayor himself has -- has suggested that people don't go outside.

I was there a couple of days ago and it is a far quieter city than it has been in the past. People heeding those words. We also know that 11 service members, South Korean military personnel have been confirmed with the virus as well, and that, of course, is increasing concerns of -- of a sweep through the military. They have barracks, they are known to live in very close quarters. So, the defense ministry is trying to crack down on that -- that particular spreading very quickly. Natalie?

ALLEN: And we also know it was this religious sect, a particular religious sect, where they do believe that this came through. What's the latest with the people involved there? Because, a few days ago they were concerned not -- that not everyone had been tested.

HANCOCKS: Well, that's right. I mean, we know from -- from authorities that they've drafted in 600 Korean police officers to try and track down hundreds of missing members. They say that they have names, phone numbers, addresses, but they simply can't get in touch still with hundreds of these members.

So, what the police are doing at this point, is they're -- they're knocking on doors, they're going to people addresses, they're trying to track their phone records with the help of -- of the country's telecom groups and they are scouring CCTV footage to monitor some of the movements that they've seen recently.


So, this itself shows that authorities are concerned that they are not managing to get in touch will all the members of this particular religious group. Critics say that this group is secretive. That it's members do not admit to being members of the church itself.

The church has spoken out. We had a statement just on Sunday saying that they though media claims of a cover up were -- were wrong and unfair. Saying that the members of the church were actually -- excuse me -- the members of the religious group were actually those who were the biggest victims, saying that they had been cooperating with police.

But this is definitely the main focus for -- for police officers at this point. Trying to track down that those that are missing and find out where they are going, who are they interacting with and -- and about 9,000 plus individual members of this group are on -- under quarantine at this point, self-imposed quarantine. Many of them will be tested.

ALLEN: All right, Paula Hancocks, for the latest there in Seoul. Thank you Paula. Well, as we mentioned, Italy is taking extreme measures to contain the outbreak in its northern region. Officials there have closed buildings, limited transportation and banned public events in several towns.

For more, let's got to CNN Contributor, Barbie Nadeau, she joins me from Rome. Barbie, talk about this region, in the northern part of Italy, where these cases have been found. What's in this region and do they know the source?

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the biggest question here, is what the -- who the source is. Who this so-called patient zero is, you know. They know that a lot of the spikes in -- in these clusters, these cases are related to one hospital in particular, south of Milan, but they just don't know who the first person to contract the disease was, or the virus was.

You know, the city of Milan is taking extraordinary measures. They've closed the Duomo, they've closed several services, you know, in Milan Fashion Week many of the shows are being housed in empty theaters and things like that.

And, you know, the -- the big word of the day here in Italy is containment. They just don't want people moving out of the area and spreading it into the rest of Italy. And there's concern across the various borders too, of course, the Brenner Pass, we know last night they stopped a train going in -- into Austria. And -- and those are the types of concerns that they have right now, especially the surrounding area.

But, the officials haven't tested everyone that's been in contact with these 152 confirmed cases. And we've had three deaths here and it must be said, though, that these are elderly people. At least one of the people were in an oncology department, so they had other underlying health concerns as well.

But, that authorities here are expecting to give us a new number in the next couple of hours. We haven't had a bulletin since last night and they've warned that that number could -- of cases could go up as they struggle to figure out how this started and how far it spreads across the country, Natalie.

ALLEN: Yes, and you mentioned the train to Austria. What other countries are in the immediate vicinity that would have concerns about this? And I know that I've talked with experts that say, closing borders is not necessary, but that has been some steps that say Pakistan has taken with Iran.

NADEAU: Well, you know, we've heard some whispers out of France that they're going to be controls at the borders there. You know, last night there -- there was a news bulletin about a train that came into Romano, in which they've told the people they have to be quarantined for two weeks.

A lot of this, you know, we don't -- we can't confirm exactly what's happening in every single border crossing. Italy has a lot of small border towns and trains go through. I suspect today though that we're going to get some more definitive measures, especially from the -- the departments -- the Transportation Department and things like that, in Italy, to give -- to lay out kind of a protocol about traveling out of the country and that will be working with the neighboring countries as well.

There's also concerns about trains coming into the south of the country, trains coming through -- coming out of Milan and down south here to Rome and to Florence and places like that. There are delays across the country and there have been great concern that those trains should be monitored as well.

Within the infected area, though, the trains aren't stopping in any of the more than 10 towns now that are on complete lockdown. They've even set up food corridors to get -- get food into those people who are just told they can't leave their houses, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, Barbie Nadeau, covering the story there from Italy for us. Barbie, thank you.

Other news we're following, in just about one hour U.S. President Donald Trump will arrive in India, where massive crowds are expected to greet him. A Namaste Trump Rally, that's what it's being called, is scheduled at a cricket stadium in Ahmedabad that can hold over 100,000 people.

Mr. Trump will also hold formal talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


It's a quick trip. His 36th hour wheels down trip there will include a visit though to the Taj Mahal in Agra. CNN Sam Kiley is in Ahmedabad. That is the hometown of Narendra Modi. Can you get a sense there of excitement building over the rival of Mr. Trump there, Sam?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Natalie, greetings from Motera stadium which is according to the Indians going to be the biggest Cricket stadium on earth with the capacity of 110,000 people now. Before his trip out here, Donald Trump said that he would (inaudible) of crowds of sum ten million.

I think we can take a couple of zeros off that. And he'd still be pretty pleased with the turnout. The stadium is filling up. It is growing in size.

There's still an hour or two at least before the U.S. president arrives here for this joint appearance with India's Prime Minister, of course very important for both of them coming from the two biggest democracies on earth, the most powerful nation on earth visiting the biggest democracy on earth.

1.4 billion Indians, a very active democracy indeed. Not withstanding a period recently in which Mr. Modi has come under very bitter criticism from his opposition and indeed legal groups and others accusing him of introducing anti-Muslim legislation through his dominance of the parliamentary process here. He was elected -- reelected to the (inaudible) or at least his parties won overwhelming majority in the elections last year.

Donald Trump facing election -- reelection in November also keen to in a sense pay respects perhaps naturally to the original India guru behind the populist wave that swept Mr. Modi to power later on calls Mr. Trump too. They employ very similar rhetorical tricks, very similar policies in some respects.

But there is no great hopes for a major trade deal to come out of this. The Indians are hoping perhaps side deals. Mr. Trump signaling that a big significant trade deal probably have to wait until after the November elections.

But this is a very important relationship indeed. India has more military exercises with the United States than any other country. And the bilateral trade is scheduled we believe going to tip over $150 billion per year, Natalie.

ALLEN: All right. Sam Kiley, you'll be covering it for us. And when the president's Air Force One lands in about 45 minutes, we will bring live coverage to our viewers of that. Sam, thank you.

The Israeli military says it launched a series of strikes targeting militant group Islamic Jihad in Gaza and Syria. It is in response to militants firing more than 20 rockets into Israel. Tensions escalated Sunday after Israel soldiers opened fire on two men they say were laying an explosive device along the Gaza border fence.

Back to U.S. politics now involving President Trump, he's weighing in now on the Nevada caucuses after Bernie Sanders big win in the state.

We'll tell you what the president is saying about it next, also why the South Carolina primary this Saturday is particularly critical for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. That's all coming up here. You're watching CNN Newsroom.




DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRES.: I think Bernie is looking more and more like he'll be the nominee. Unless they cheat him out of it. A lot of people thought he was going to be the nominee last time. And that didn't work out. I think they're watching it very closely. I would imagine so.


ALLEN: All right, the U.S. president there chiming in on candidate Bernie Sanders big win in the Nevada caucuses with 88 percent apprising reporting. CNN is projecting Sanders will be the big winner -- excuse me.

Meantime, Pete Buttigieg's campaign sent a letter to the Nevada state Democratic Party alleging irregularities and how early votes and in- person votes are integrated, Sanders remains un-phased.


SEN. SANDERS: Now I've been hearing in all the establishment is getting a little bit nervous about our campaign.


And you know what, when they see if the cameras turn on this crowd and our friends in Wall Street and the drug companies see this kind of crowd, you're going to really get them nervous.



ALLEN: Well as the race moves to South Carolina this weekend, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden aims to convince voters that he is a better candidate than Sanders. Can he do it? CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zelney is in Charleston, South Carolina.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR W.H. CORRESPONDENT: The Democratic presidential contest now in South Carolina, the last of the first four early states the South Carolina primary on Saturday so critical for all candidates, particularly Joe Biden trying to make a stand here to revive his candidacy of course also trying to slow the accent of Senator Bernie Sanders who had a commanding finish in the Nevada caucuses over the weekend.

Now Mr. Biden has a campaign here in South Carolina on Sunday made the case that he believes Bernie Sander sis too liberal for Democrats would hurt the party down ballot even like George McGovern did so many years ago. Take a listen.


UNKNOWN MALE: Would Senator Sanders as the nominee be a McGovern like mistake for this party?

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRES.: Well, that's for the voters to know -- look, I think it's going to get down to race between Senator Sanders and me for the nomination.


And as I said all along, it's not just can you beat Donald Trump, can you bring along -- can you keep a Democratic House of Representatives in the United States Congress? And can you bring along a Democratic Senate? Can you help people up and down the line? And I think I'm better prepared than Senator Sanders is.


ZELENY: But as much as the former vice president may like, this is not a two person race. In fact so many other moderate candidates still in the race, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, even Tom Steyer potentially complicating the former vice president's path here in South Carolina.

But one thing is clear; this is a different electorate here in South Carolina, sum 60 percent of the Democratic electorate African American voters. So Joe Biden certainly has a strong appeal and is making that case directly.

Of course he was former president Barack Obama's vice president for eight years and has a long civil rights record of his own. So the South Carolina primary has a history of surprising voters, has a history of delivering an upset or something different.

So keep an eye on what could happen here over the next five days or so. Then only three days after the primary, Super Tuesday comes. That is when sum a third if the delegates are selected. That's where Mike Bloomberg will weigh in for the first time, this Democratic race still very much alive. Jeff Zeleny, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.


ALLEN: All right, let's talk about it with our guest Ron Brownstein. He is CNN senior political analyst and senior editor of The Atlantic. Ron, Zeleny there talking about Biden's chances in South Carolina. Bernie's got the momentum. How do you see it?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST AND SENIOR EDITOR OF THE ATLANTIC: Joe Biden has been in politics for 50 years, since 1970 I think running for the county council in Delaware. If he doesn't win the South Carolina primary on Saturday this could be his last week in politics.

I mean, it really is all or -- I mean his back is against the wall. I mean, it -- his poor performance in the first two states and something of a recovery but only limited in Nevada is a large part why the center of the party has been unable to (inaudible) as an alternative to Bernie Sanders.

I mean, Sanders put together a (inaudible) performance in Nevada. He added a strong showing of Latinos to what -- in his base in the first two states. Young people, the most liberal voters and the most non- college whites.

We don't know though, Natalie, if Bernie Sanders can repeat the kind of dominant performance that he had in Nevada and other states. The polling so far still has him in at 25 to 30 percent range.

The question is whether anyone can consolidate the majority of the party that still seems to be skeptical of him. And that way as you know it's very reminiscent of the question Republicans faced during the early stages of 2016 with Donald Trump.

ALLEN: Right. If the country though was ready for Donald Trump in 2016 and many didn't believe it would be in August 2015 Mr. Trump drew 30,000 at a camaogin event in Alabama.

This was at a time when numerous political experts gave tramp -- Trump almost no chance of winning. So, some are saying there's commonality with Sanders because he's starting to get--


ALLEN: -- a lot of people behind him. And he has a populous message.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, that's the argument, right? That's the argument you're hearing from the Sanders supporters that basically Donald Trump show that you do not need a candidate quote in the mainstream in order to win that a passionate base is now the key to success in American politics. It's a huge roll of the dice.

I mean, you can't sit here and say after the 2016 experience that there's no chance that Sanders would win. But it is obviously a very risky bet for Democrats to have a candidate who wants to decriminalize the border, allow the undocumented into the healthcare system, allow felons to vote from vote, is proposing a $60 trillion in new sending.

Again tonight on 60 Minutes with our colleague Anderson Cooper, he said he cannot put a cost number on the full totality of his agenda much less how he is going to pay for it. So can Sanders change the electorate? Can he win back blue-collar voters? Sure. Is he a challenge to hold the suburban areas, the white-collar voters who deliver the Democrats the majority in the House in 2018? I don't think even his own advisors would dispute that.

So, you can see why Donald Trump wants -- I mean this is the nominee that Republicans believe they have the best chance against. It could be a case of beware of what you wish for. But there is no question that it is an enormous roll of the dice to nominate someone with these views. ALLEN: Absolutely. We heard President Trump just a few moments ago talking about Bernie and not using his usual vitriol when talking about an opponent.

Many people are saying -- well we heard a lot of analysts say right after we knew the results of Nevada that quote I think I heard Dana Bash say this that moderates inside Washington -- the Congress are quote "freaking out." Do you think there is a reason for that extreme of a response?


BROWNSTEIN: Yes. I mean, look, this is a lot like 2016 on the Republican side. And I think the presidential -- I've covered the presidential primary since 1984, this is my tenth one.

And I think the process is changing because the availability in online fundraising and the sheer amount of media attention that any candidate can get, town halls and debates and so forth, makes it more likely for people to stay in. Fewer people drop out.

And as a result, a candidate who has a committed ideological core, even if it is a significant minority of the party has an advantage in such a world where the rest of the party is splittered. In the early parts of the Republican primary Donald Trump was winning a quarter to a third of the voters. That's what we're seeing.

I think in most states we will see from Bernie Sanders Nevada was as I said a (inaudible). But in a world where the rest of the party is splittered because so many candidates are hanging around, that is a (inaudible). What are the ironies?

Tom Steyer became known nationally by spending enormous amounts of money promoting the impeachment of Donald Trump. He is now potentially dividing the African American vote in South Carolina in a way that will elevate the chances of Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden.

And in that way move forward the candidate that most Republicans think Trump his chance of a second term. Those are the kind of dynamics you get into in these crowded fields when the historic pressures that push people out of the race are tremendously diminished.

ALLEN: Interesting that Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said years ago, oh my gosh, if Donald Trump wins we are doomed.


ALLEN: And he's a big defender of the president. We've got to go but the top Democrat South Carolina--

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, (inaudible) rules are changed, Natalie.


BROWNSTEIN: (Inaudible)--

ALLEN: Yes--

BROWNSTEIN: ...(inaudible) and can Bernie Sanders win, how much did the old rules apply? That's what the Democrats maybe be waiting on this year.

ALLEN: Right. We talk about Steyer splitting the black vote. The top Democrat in the state who's African America will make his endorsement this week. We'll be waiting for that.

We got to leave it there for now. Ron Brownstein, we always appreciate your insights. Thanks so much.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

ALLEN: Coming up here, Japan is facing scrutiny over its handling of the coronavirus after nearly two dozen passengers got off that virus stricken cruise ship without proper testing.

We'll have a live report about that just ahead. And with the virus outbreak slowing down the world economy, we look at what the G20 is pledging to do to ease this crisis. Much more ahead here.


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM, coming to you live from Atlanta. We appreciate you joining us. Let's update you on our top news this hour.


In about a half hour, U.S. President Donald Trump will land in Ahmedabad, India, for a quick visit. You can see scenes here that they are getting ready.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host a "Namaste Trump" rally in a cricket stadium that holds more than 100,000 people. Mr. Trump will also hold formal talks with Mr. Modi during his quick trip.

The extradition hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to get underway, finally, in the coming hours. A court will decide if he should be sent to the U.S. to face charges including conspiring to hack government computers.

The coronavirus is spreading rapidly beyond mainland China now, Italy confirming more than 150 cases and at least three deaths. Venice is suspending carnival because of the outbreak. Cases are also surging in South Korea, with more than 760 confirmed and seven deaths, mostly centered around areas in the southeast.

Well, Japan has more cases of the virus than any country outside of mainland China, and it's facing even more scrutiny over its response to the threat after 23 people were allowed to disembark a virus- stricken cruise ship without following proper testing protocols.

For more on this, I'm joined now by CNN's Blake Essig in Tokyo. What are they saying about this, Blake? BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, Japan's Ministry of

Health is actually in the process of tracking down and retesting these 23 passengers. So far, they've only been successful in contacting three of those passengers to have them retested. Those three passengers did test negative.

But the issue here, Natalie, is that these 23 passengers didn't follow the protocol that the Japanese government put into place and, specifically, these people, these 23 people were tested prior to the quarantine beginning on February 5. They had either came into contact with somebody who had tested positive for the coronavirus or were showing symptoms themselves.

In order to get off the ship, they had to be tested during the 14-day quarantine, which these people were not. And as a result, in the days that have followed, Japan's health minister has come out and apologized, expressed deep remorse for this mistake, and vowed to make sure it never happens again.

But Natalie, perhaps more concerning to Japan's health ministry is the fact that a woman in her sixties, who did follow the quarantine protocol, has since developed symptoms and tested positive for the coronavirus. She disembarked on Wednesday. Two days later, she developed symptoms and then has since tested positive.

And in that time, she took public transportation home with her husband. She interacted with friends within her community. And so, at this point, Japan's health ministry is looking at what has happened here, recognizing that roughly 1,000 passengers have disembarked. And what they're going to do is check in with those passengers on a daily basis to check on their health. And they've also asked them not to go outside or use public transportation unless absolutely necessary, Natalie.

ALLEN: Right, it shows how, if one person slip to the cracks, how that can endanger so many others. All right, Blake Essig in Tokyo. Blake, thanks so much.

The outbreak continues to take a toll on stock markets around the world. In South Korea the KOSPI fell by almost 3 percent in early trading Monday, and U.S. futures are down across the board.

Manisha Tank joins me now from Singapore. What's happening with the markets? What more can you tell us, Manisha?

MANISHA TANK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, if you were sitting at a trading desk somewhere in Asia right now or anywhere in the world, you're looking at a sea of red out of the gate. And I've been tracking these markets all morning, just extending their losses.


So we have the Hang Seng, for example, the main index in Hong Kong, off more than one and a half percent this morning. The KOSPI, though, that's the big one, extending its losses down more with a drop of 2 percent at the open, extending those more than 3 percent down now, even though it has paired some of its losses in the last hour.

A couple of the stocks that are being heavily impacted by this news of the coronavirus spread there. And let's remember that since Friday, the numbers of cases being confirmed there have jumped in their hundreds. When they were in their tens on Friday, we're not talking in excess of 700 cases.

So Hyundai Motor down 4 percent, for example. Samsung, an interesting story there, actually. It discovered one case of an employee at one of its factory complexes, so it shut the whole complex down.

If you see more of that kind of thing happening, you're going to see a lot of these stock-specific movements.

Also, we've also seen the Shanghai Composite down today, as well. But we've already seen it absorb a lot of the impact of the coronavirus in China already.

But let's talk about Dow futures. That's what we've seen plunge here in Asian trading. So this points to where we're going to see the Dow open when the U.S. markets come online much later in our day. Dow down more than -- nearly 400 points, and that points to an open which will be lower by 350 points in the U.S.

ALLEN: Yes, not -- not seeing many things positive going on right now. Manisha Tank following for us from Singapore. We really appreciate it. Thanks.

Well, the coronavirus outbreak dominated the meeting of finance ministers and central bank leaders at the G-20 meeting in Saudi Arabia. The group said global economic growth remains slow, with the virus, posing the greatest risk.

Our John Defterios has the details from Abu Dhabi.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The group of 20 represents more than 80 percent of global GDP, so it's no surprise that the coronavirus took top billing as the clear and present danger right now. One quarter of the group is from Asia and on the front line of the economic fallout.

Countries from China to the Philippines were the first to rollout emergency economic measures.

G-20 host Saudi Arabia acknowledged the elephant in the room but like many, said it would be premature to cast judgment.

MOHAMED AL-JADAAN, SAUDI FINANCE MINISTER (through translator): And one of the risks that were mentioned was definitely, indeed, one that is relevant to what is left or what is still continuing in terms of how commerce and institutes are affected on a global level.

DEFTERIOS: Jadaan said that the G-20 was prepared to act, if necessary, on a multilateral basis. Japan's finance minister was the most direct.

Right out of the starting gate in Riyadh, Taro Aso said the virus could have a serious effect on global growth and suggests that whoever has fiscal space should take bold policy measures.

Germany, Europe's largest economy, would be an obvious candidate, due to its trade surplus and as a big exporter to Far East Asia.

After China's two decades of explosive growth, France's finance minister suggested the G-20 countries have grown too dependent on the world's second largest economy, underscoring China's dominance in the supply chains of the auto, drug and aerospace sectors.

A formal stimulus package was not expected, but a clear signal indicating a willingness to pounce if necessary, should be welcomed by global investors.

John Defterios, CNN Business, Abu Dhabi.


ALLEN: As the U.S. President gets ready to arrive in India in about just 20 minutes, we take a closer look at the political career of his host, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


ALLEN: The U.S. president's visit to India will be a welcome spectacle at a challenging time for the country's prime minister. Narendra Modi faces a sagging economy, protests over a citizenship law, and increased tensions with neighboring Pakistan.

Bianca Nobilo has more on Mr. Modi's rise to power.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is a leader of the world's biggest democracy, with the fate of well over a billion people in his hands.

Narendra Modi is India's prime minister and the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP.

He was born in 1950, the first prime minister to be born in an independent India. As a young adult, he got involved in Hindu nationalists politics, then joined the BJP as secretary in 1987.

After more than a decade of climbing the ranks, he was named as chief minister in Gujarat in western India in 2001.

A year later, crisis on his watch. A fire on board a train killed at least 58 people. The victims were largely Hindu pilgrims who'd stopped in a Muslim majority area.

Tensions between the two communities flared. Riots erupted in the following days, and Modi was accused of condoning the violent protests that killed nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.

In fact, three years later the United States declined to issue a diplomatic visa to Modi for his suspected role in those riots.

A 2013 ruling from India's supreme court found that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him. Modi was thus cleared for a national breakthrough. He became BJP leader ahead of the 2014 elections.

Now, campaigning in a country of more than one billion people isn't easy. So Modi used one of these, a hologram of himself, to appear in dozens of places at the same time.

His party swept the elections, propelling the new leader to the global stage. And he hasn't left it since.

He won reelection again in a landslide in 2019. But since then, he has faced controversy. Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked in August, after Modi announced that India would revoke a constitutional provision giving the state of Jammu and Kashmir autonomy set its own laws.

In the wake of that, Modi's government imposed a communication blackout in the Muslim-majority region.

Then, in December, Parliament passed a controversial law that fast- tracked citizenship for members of several religious minorities but not Muslims.

The law sparked protests across the country. Modi's brand of nationalist politics has made him some friends abroad. Not least in the Oval Office.

Many have compared him to Donald Trump, and both leaders have lavished praise on each other.

Modi sold himself for something different in Indian politics, a vision of the future. Indians agreed. They voted him in twice. But with recent controversies and an economy whose growth has halved in just three years, whether he can keep up that level of support remains to be seen.


ALLEN: All right, and live video here of the airport where we expect to see Air Force One within the next 15 minutes as President Trump arrives for his visit with Narendra Modi in India. So, stay right here. We'll have that for you.

For now, though, I'm Natalie Allen, and WORLD SPORT is next. See you in 15.