Invites New India Leader To Visit Despite Past Visa Ban
Send a link to a friend
[May 17, 2014]
By David Brunnstrom and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President
Barack Obama congratulated new Indian leader Narendra Modi on his
election victory on Friday and invited him to the White House, even
though he was barred from the country less than 10 years ago over
massacres of Muslims.
Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies swept India's
elections, putting him in position to be prime minister, and ousted
the ruling Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in a seismic political shift that
gives the Hindu nationalist and his party a mandate for sweeping
Obama told Modi by telephone that he looked forward to working
closely with him to "fulfill the extraordinary promise of the
U.S.-India strategic partnership," the White House said.
"The president invited Narendra Modi to visit Washington at a
mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral
A U.S. visit could come as soon as the U.N. 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 U.S. 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
Modi denied any wrongdoing. India's Supreme Court ruled in 2010 he
had no case to answer.
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
Washington sees its relationship with India as critical, partly to
counterbalance China's rising power. Obama has called it "one of the
defining partnerships of the 21st century."
A Modi government could boost investor confidence though residual
bad feeling over the visa issue will need to dissipate.
The U.S.-India relationship hit its lowest ebb in a decade last year
after a junior Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested and
strip-searched in New York. The U.S. ambassador to India resigned
after the incident and has yet to be replaced.
[to top of second column]
Businessmen attending an election result lunch at the Indian
ambassador's residence in Washington on Friday expressed optimism
about a more investor-friendly environment under Modi.
However, some privately expressed concern about a possible revival
in communal violence.
Last month, Nisha Biswal, the top U.S. diplomat for South Asia, said
the United States wants bilateral trade of $500 billion a year, up
from about $100 billion currently.
One concern for Western businesses is the BJP's welcoming of foreign
direct investment in all sectors that create local jobs excluding
supermarkets, a setback to retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and
Drug patents are another sore point. The government has been
considering allowing the generic manufacture of a number of patented
drugs to give India's 1.2 billion people access to affordable
medicines, putting it at odds with Western pharmaceutical companies.
(Editing by Jason Szep and Mohammad Zargham)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.