US would welcome Modi as PM despite past visa ban | india | Hindustan Times
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US would welcome Modi as PM despite past visa ban

United States president Barack Obama faces the prospect this week of having to offer his congratulations to a leader who was barred from the country less than 10 years ago over riots in Gujarat under his chief ministership in 2002.

india Updated: May 13, 2014 12:25 IST
Yashwant Raj

The United States on Monday formally, and finally, announced an end to hostilities against a man it had spent most the past decade persecuting under a rarely used law.

The White House said it will work with the “next administration” within hours of exit polls forecasting Narendra Modi as the next prime minister.

“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 President Barack Obama in a statement.

Modi was not mentioned, of course.

Citing the 2002 riots, the United States turned down Modi’s request for an official visa in 2005, and cancelled his business/tourist visa that he had held for a while.

Modi never applied for a visa again.

Read | US hails 'inspiring' LS polls, will work with next PM

The White House statement was a congratulatory note on the conclusion of the nine-phase 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.”

But in spirit, said India watchers here, it was the first sign of the United States reaching out to a man it had spent most of the past decade persecuting under a rarely used law by denying him a visa to visit the country.

“The United States 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 the president.

There was no reference to an issue that has troubled India-US relation more than anything else since Pokhran II — intellectual property rights and related issues.

After setting off a worldwide boycott of the Gujarat chief minister, the United States lost the race to make it up with him once he emerged as a national leader.

The United Kingdom, Canada and other western nations were quicker at it. And when the United States finally moved, Modi made it acutely aware to them that he was irritated.

Read | US visa ban on Modi will automatically be lifted if he becomes PM: Congressional report

Modi made then US ambassador to India Nancy Powell wait two months to let her see him — and not in New Delhi, where she had sought it for convenience.

“He is not known to forget and forgive easily,” Devesh Kapur of the University of Pennsylvania had said to Hindustan Times om this issue. And Modi has yet to show himself different.