Washington: In the end it just took a phone call from President Barack Obama to Narendra Modi with an invitation to visit Washington to reset a US policy that had shunned India’s next prime minister for over a decade.
Obama’s invitation to Modi “to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship” went in a congratulatory call Friday on the “Bharatiya Janata Party’s success in India’s historic election.”
“The President noted he looks forward to working closely with Mr. Modi to fulfill the extraordinary promise of the US-India strategic partnership, and they agreed to continue expanding and deepening the wide-ranging cooperation between our two democracies,” the White House said in a readout of the call.
The White House made no reference to the 2005 revocation of Modi’s visa for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots during his watch as the state chief minister – a tricky issue that threatened to cloud India-US ties in his new role.
After cussedly playing cagey on the visa issue, the State Department also Friday finally acknowledged that Modi’s impending elevation as India’s leader had turned the knotty matter into a non-issue.
“The Prime Minister of India will be welcomed to the United States. As Head of Government, Mr. Modi would be eligible for an A-1 visa,” the department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement.
Earlier, White House press secretary Jay Carney also declared that the “Prime Minister of India will receive a visa to travel to the United States” and the US looked “forward to working with the new government and the new Prime Minister.”
“I don’t anticipate any problem in that regard,” he added.
Asked if Modi’s visa revocation was “a wrong step taken” by the previous George Bush administration, Carney parried: “I can tell you that the Prime Minister of India will be welcomed to the United States.”
“And I would also note that US officials, including Ambassador (to India Nancy) Powell, have met with Mr. Modi so he is certainly not unknown to us.”
Carney also thanked outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “for the role he played in transforming our strategic partnership during his 10 years in office.”
“What we do anticipate is moving forward with the new government and strengthening a relationship that has already been strengthened significantly over the past years with Prime Minister Singh at the helm in India,” he said.
“I think the future is bright,” Carney said noting “the US-India partnership enjoys broad support across party lines in both of our countries.
“And I am confident that we will continue our successful and productive partnership with the new Indian government.”
At the State Department Psaki also congratulated “Modi and the BJP on its victory in winning a majority of seats in India’s historic national election, which saw more voters cast their ballots freely and fairly than in any election in human history.”
Secretary of State John “Kerry has also offered his congratulations, and looks forward to working with the BJP on expanding our shared prosperity and security,” she said.
“Once a new Government is formed, we look forward to working closely with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to advance our strong bilateral partnership,” Psaki said.