WASHINGTON: As he congratulated Narendra Modi on his election victory on Friday, US President Barack Obama invited India’s prime minister-in-waiting to the White House even though the latter was barred from the country less than 10 years ago over the massacre of Muslims.
Obama told Modi by telephone that he looked forward to working closely with him to “fulfill the extraordinary promise of the US-India strategic partnership,” the White House said on Sunday. “The president invited Narendra Modi to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship.”
A US visit could come as soon as the UN General Assembly in New York in September, when Modi could also visit Washington.
The administration of President George W Bush denied Modi a visa in 2005 under a 1998 US law barring entry to foreigners who have committed “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
In 2002, when Modi had just become Gujarat’s chief minister, more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in sectarian riots in the state. Modi denied any wrongdoing. India’s Supreme Court ruled in 2010 he had no case to answer.
But the anti-Modi lobby in the United States has dwindled. In March, a congressional report said Modi would qualify for a visa if he became leader.
US officials “are painfully aware that they are at a real disadvantage by not having a relationship with Modi or really knowing him,” said Milan Vaishnav of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “They are going to try to remedy that as quickly as possible.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2014.