US Secretary Nisha Desai Biswal in New Delhi Next Week

US Assistant Secretary Nisha Desai Biswal (L) with former Indian Ambassador Nirupama Rao

Must read

Washington, DC – The United States is sending one of its top level diplomats of Indian origin to start the process of reviewing bilateral and regional ties with the newly sworn in National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, led by Narendra Modi.

In an official release, the US State Department said on Friday that the US Assistant Secretary Nisha Desai Biswal during a trip to Asia would be in New Delhi from June 6-9, noting, “she will meet with a range of officials in the new Government of India to review the full scope of bilateral and regional issues.” The trip would start in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (June 2-3) and then take Biswal to Beijing, China (June 4-6) before arriving in New Delhi.

“This will be the first visit to India by a senior State Department official since India’s national elections this spring. While in New Delhi, Assistant Secretary Biswal will also meet with key strategic thinkers and business leaders,” the release added.

The move is in keeping with the promise made by the state department Marie Harf earlier in May saying, “We will work very closely with whoever is the next prime minister of India, I can guarantee you that.”

The hiccup in the bilateral relationship posed a dilemma to the US as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi became the new prime minister of India with a thumping majority while the US failed to resolve the decade old pariah status meted out to Modi, post Gujarat riots in 2002. In 2005 the US State Department used domestic laws to scrap Modi’s visa saying that the Gujarat chief minister was, “responsible for the (lack of) performance of state institutions” during the communal riots in his state.

The allegations, which were never nodded along by any domestic court or other investigating bodies in India, stated that Modi turned a blind eye to the riots, that killed 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 the US policy when the outgoing US ambassador Nancy Powell met Modi in February earlier this year.

US President Barack 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 again called Modi on being sworn in as India’s 15th Prime Minister and said he looked forward to working with the new leader to strengthen the strategic partnership. On this call, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “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.”

Political pundits and business leaders are cautiously optimistic about the relationship coming out of the negativity clouds with the new government.

Ambassador Frank G. Wisner, a veteran US diplomat and former ambassador to India, told India America Today, “The US – Indian relationship is of the utmost importance to both countries. It is essential our two leaders get off to a strong start and not look back. president Obama has called to extend good wishes to Narendra Modi,” noting, “I am persuaded the latter will reciprocate. Too much is at stake.”

Echoing Wisner’s sentiments, the US-India Business Council, USIBC Chairman Ajay Banga, President and CEO, MasterCard said, “Both the US and India have deep pools of entrepreneurial talent and energy, and both countries need to stimulate economic growth and create new jobs. This requires a forward-looking partnership between these two great democracies.”

On May 26, Modi, 63, was sworn in as Prime Minister at the head of a 45-member coalition government after the elections brought in the first government with absolute majority in 30 years.

More articles

Latest article