The US on Monday formally and finally ended its censure of a man whom it had denied entry for nearly a decade citing a rarely-used law.
Within hours of exit polls forecasting Narendra Modi as the next PM, the White House said it would work with the “next administration” in India.
“We look forward to the formation of a new government once election results are announced and to working closely with India’s next administration to make the coming years equally transformative,” said US President Barack Obama in a statement. Modi was not mentioned, of course.
Citing the 2002 riots, the US had turned down Modi’s visa request in 2005 and cancelled his business/tourist visa which he had held for a while. Modi never applied for a visa again.
The US action was taken under a law that allowed the administration to deny visa to foreign leaders suspected of involvement in violation of religious rights. Monday’s White House statement was congratulatory about the conclusion of the nine-phase general election hailed the world over as the largest in human history.
“India has set an example for the world in holding the largest democratic election in history, a vibrant demonstration of our shared values of diversity and freedom,” it said.
But in spirit, said India watchers here, it was the first sign of the US reaching out to Modi.
“The US and India have developed a strong friendship and comprehensive partnership over the last two decades, which has made our citizens safer and more prosperous and which has enhanced our ability to work together to solve global challenges,” said Obama.
After setting off a worldwide boycott of the Gujarat CM, the US lost the race to make it up with him once he emerged as a national leader.
The UK, Canada and other western nations were quicker. And when the US finally moved, Modi made it acutely aware to them that he was irritated.
He made then US ambassador to India Nancy Powell wait two months before meeting her, that too in his home state Ahmedabad and not in New Delhi, where she had sought it.
“He is not known to forget and forgive easily,” Devesh Kapur of the University of Pennsylvania had told HT on this issue.