NEW DELHI — Donald Trump Jr. has spent the week in India pitching new luxury high rises that bear his family’s name. At one meeting in Mumbai, he even sought new sales leads from dozens of buyers who had already put down at least a million dollars apiece for a spot in a tower overlooking the Arabian Sea.
The Trump Organization is reaping the windfall from India’s admiration for President Trump. Mr. Trump may have low approval ratings at home, but he appears well liked in a country with one of the fastest-growing populations of millionaires in the world.
“There is a certain premium to the Trump brand,” said Sumeet Arora, who bought one of the apartments in Mumbai.
But even before the president’s son arrived to press the flesh and do the deals, his trip was creating controversy over its potential for line-blurring.
Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, has sought assurances from the United States Embassy in Delhi that it was not helping Mr. Trump. And ethics experts seem unable to overstate the rarity of a sitting president’s son drumming up business overseas.
“Nothing like this, no never,” said Marilyn L. Glynn, who served as general counsel at the Office of Government Ethics during parts of the Clinton and Bush administrations. “Unprecedented, unheard-of.”
The controversy only grew as word spread that Mr. Trump plans to give a speech in New Delhi on Friday, taking the podium before Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks. The topic: “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation.”
“The title sure sounds like something you would hear from a diplomat,” said Joshua White, who worked in the Obama White House as director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council. “It is not illegal, but it would muddy the waters and I think make life rather difficult for those in the United States government who are being measured about how they articulate what the administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy is and will become.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Menendez said in a letter to the embassy in New Delhi, “Given the potential to confuse Mr. Trump’s private business visit with having an official governmental purpose, I write to ensure that the U.S. Embassy presence in India will have no role in supporting Mr. Trump or the Trump Organization during his time in India, other than that necessary to provide any security support for the U.S. Secret Service.”
The embassy said it was not facilitating Mr. Trump’s visit other than to coordinate with his security detail.
In an interview in New York City last week, just before he left, Mr. Trump called his trip a natural and appropriate continuation of nearly a decade of effort by the Trump Organization to build a real estate business in India. He said he was in no way trying to cash in on his father’s position.
“It is more about the brand and the product we are offering than it is about politics,” Mr. Trump said.
He said the family had sustained losses as a result of the presidency, and was unable to take up any new deals beyond the five it had already negotiated in India. “We cannot do any new international deals for the time being, which is a sacrifice we as a company have made,” Mr. Trump said.
If India loves the president’s son, he appears to love it back.
“I think there is something about the spirit of the Indian people that is unique here to other parts of the emerging world,” he said in a local television interview this week. He added, “I don’t want to be glib but you can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face.”
“I know some of the most successful people in the world and some of them are the most miserable people in the world,” Mr. Trump said.
Mr. Arora was among the buyers who met with Mr. Trump in Mumbai on Thursday morning. After paying 80 million Indian rupees, or $1.2 million, for a three-bedroom apartment, he expected the developer to be prompt for what he thought would be an intimate meeting with him and about 35 other buyers. Instead, they waited for an hour and a half for Mr. Trump to show up.
When he finally arrived at noon, Mr. Trump gave the well-heeled crowd a sales pitch on the virtues of the building, even though they had already collectively pledged millions of dollars on the units, which are to open by June 2019.
“They’ve got some units left — they wanted us to suggest people as leads,” Mr. Arora said.
Under the Trump administration, New Delhi is enjoying some of the warmest relations it has ever had with Washington. For Indian officials, part of the appeal is the hard line the administration has taken on Pakistan, India’s chief rival. But for many other Indians, it is simply that the Trump family name seems to them to be synonymous with success.
In New Delhi over the weekend, several of the country’s leading newspapers carried full front-page ads with the younger Mr. Trump’s face, arms crossed over his chest with the question: “Trump is here. Are you invited?”
The ad promised a meeting with the president’s son if prospective buyers put down a booking fee of about $38,000 for a Trump Organization project in Gurgaon, just south of New Delhi.
The promise of a meeting with the younger Mr. Trump was apparently enough to spur sales, said Kalpesh Mehta of Tribeca Developers, the Trump Organization’s partner for the Gurgaon project.
Mr. Mehta told local reporters that on Monday alone, when Mr. Trump touched down in New Delhi to kick off his weeklong tour, the company recorded sales of $15 million. Ground has yet to be broken on the two Trump towers in Gurgaon — the completion date is in 2023 — but sales have topped $100 million, Mr. Mehta said.
Mr. Trump capped Thursday by meeting with prospective buyers for a “champagne reception,” according to an invitation. Bankers mingled with Bollywood actors and socialites at the event — which also started about two hours later than scheduled — wearing expensive clothing and nibbling on their choice of four types of ravioli.
Mumbai is the financial center of the country and has one of the largest concentrations of billionaires in the world.
It also has some of its biggest slums.
In the city, formerly known as Bombay, construction cranes and half-finished buildings dot the skyline. New towers compete with old ones, as buildings go ever higher to maximize space and provide better views of the Arabian Sea and the city below.
“Bombay all of a sudden has gone vertical,” said Mr. Arora, whose current home in a 10-story building in Mumbai’s Juhu neighborhood has slowly been dwarfed by taller buildings.