US Declines to Confirm Indian Prime Minister Modi’s US Visit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

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Washington, DC – The United States on Thursday (June 5) denied confirmation of newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s prospective travel plans to the US in September, for his first meeting with US President Barack Obama.

When asked to corroborate media reports from New Delhi of Modi’s arrival in Washington, DC later this year, the US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf did not confirm, but instead reminded the journalists of recent phone calls and statements from both President Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry, welcoming Modi.

During the daily press briefing, Harf reiterated, “As we said at the time – as President Obama and Secretary Kerry both said, we look forward to welcoming the prime minister to Washington; nothing to announce on timing at this point.”

Further pressed to outline the nature of this US welcome, Harf replied, “I don’t have any more details. We said we look forward to welcoming him.”

Earlier, Indian media reports, quoting official sources, announced that Modi would travel to Washington in the last week of September for a bilateral summit with Obama rather than meet during Obama’s visit to New York to attend the UN General Assembly.

In 2005, the US State Department used domestic laws to scrap Modi’s visa because then Gujarat chief minister Modi was, “responsible for the (lack of) performance of state institutions,” during communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. Although the US failed to resolve the decade old pariah status meted out to Modi following the events of 2002, Narendra Modi was elected prime minister of India with a thumping majority. This hiccup posed a dilemma in bilateral relationships between India and the US.

The allegations, which were never agreed upon by any domestic court or any other investigating body in India, insinuated that Modi turned a blind eye to the riots, which may have resulted in the killing of hundreds of people, mostly Muslims. Over the years, Modi has denied any wrongdoing and a Supreme Court monitored investigation cleared him of any charges of complicity.

There was, however, an evident change in US policy when the outgoing US ambassador Nancy Powell met Modi in February earlier this year.

President Obama first called Modi for his electoral victory on the day poll results showed a landslide electoral win for the Bhartiya Janata Party led NDA alliance.

Obama called again after Modi was sworn in as India’s 15th Prime Minister, saying he looked forward to working with the new leader to strengthen the strategic partnership. White House press secretary Jay Carney remarked, “As the President and Prime Minister agreed in their call after the election, as the world’s two largest democracies, India and the United States share a deep bond and commitment to promoting economic opportunity, freedom, and security for our people and around the world.”

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