NEW DELHI-US President Donald Trump will be accorded a grand reception during his visit to India starting Monday, but the possibility of a trade deal remains elusive as both the countries have ramped up protectionist measures against each other.

Trump, accompanied by First Lady Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, is scheduled to travel to Ahmedabad, Agra, and New Delhi on Feb. 24 and 25. He will open the world’s biggest cricket stadium and watch the sunset at the Taj Mahal, a Mughal era mausoleum. Ahead of the visit, however, there have been talks about New Delhi and Washington agreeing on a trade package as a precursor to a major trade deal.

At an event in Las Vegas on Thursday, Trump gave mixed messages about prospects of a trade deal with Indian premier Narendra Modi. “We’re going to India and we may make a tremendous deal there. Maybe we’ll slow it down, we’ll do it after the election,” he said. Earlier, he told journalists in Maryland: “We’re not treated very well by India, but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot... we can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really saving the big deal for later on.”

“It is important to understand the context in which the remarks were made,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said in his weekly press briefing.

“Please understand that the U.S. is India’s largest trading partner in goods and services. Also do keep in mind that there has been a consistent growth in trade between the two countries over the last few years.”

Trump’s indication that the deal may not be sealed before U.S. elections in November was echoed by India’s Foreign Ministry, which said it did not want to “rush into a deal”. Relations between the two countries soured in 2019 after India hiked customs duty on U.S. agricultural products and restricted imports of certain medical devices.

This was in response to Trump increasing in 2018 tariffs on steel and aluminum from India -- and elsewhere -- and stripping India of its preferential trade status.

Under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, 129 developing countries enjoyed tariff-free access to U.S. markets. India led the list of countries benefiting from this program, exporting $600 million worth of products to the U.S. in 2018.

While New Delhi wants the restoration of its privileged status, Washington seeks access to India’s huge poultry and dairy markets, and facilitate exports of stents and other medical devices.