Modi aide calls for strong India-US relations


A politician close to India’s incoming prime minister Narendra Modi called earlier on Thursday for strong relations with the United States after speculation he could bear a grudge over past treatment.

Sudhanshu Trivedi, national spokesperson for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that won a resounding victory in recent elections, said there had also been “many apprehensions” about the Hindu nationalist BJP before it last took power in 1998.

But the 1998-2004 BJP government of prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee “was the golden era of Indo-US relations, so we have proved that we are capable of maintaining relations to new height,” Trivedi told a conference in Washington by phone.

Citing former US president Bill Clinton’s past remark that the world’s two largest democracies should help shape the global order, Trivedi said: “I think the actual time of realising this dream has now come.”

Modi was refused a US visa in 2005 on human rights grounds due to anti-Muslim riots three years earlier in his state of Gujarat in which more than 1,000 people died.

Modi, who was Gujarat’s chief minister, was accused of turning a blind eye or worse to the violence although investigations cleared him of personal responsibility.

Modi has not expressed bitterness in public toward the United States, but US policymakers and experts are carefully scrutinising his remarks as he has little foreign policy experience.

Trivedi, addressing a largely sympathetic audience at the US India Political Action Committee, an Indian American group, did not bring up the visa issue.

But he criticised outside perceptions of Modi, saying the BJP “should not be seen as right-wing fundamentalist.”

President Barack Obama spoke to Modi by telephone after the election to congratulate him and invite him to Washington.

Nisha Desai Biswal, the US assistant secretary of state for South Asia, told the conference that the Obama administration hoped to work closely with the Modi government once it takes over next week.