Washington, DC – With the Indian general elections to elect the next federal government coming to a close, the United States promised to work with any leader, the people of India elect after the ongoing “weeks and weeks long (election) process.”
Addressing a special briefing for the foreign media, the state department spokesperson Marie Harf said, “We will work very closely with whoever is the next prime minister of India, I can guarantee you that.”
Asked to comment on the opposition Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi’s US visa dilemma, if and when he is invited in future as the prime minister of India to the US, Harf said, “I’m sure we will have meetings here. I just don’t have anything to preview for – we’re going to have to wait and see what the results are of the election.”
The hiccup is the decade old pariah status meted out to Modi, post Gujarat riots in 2002, when 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.
“Obviously, we look forward to continuing to work with India on a whole range of issues with whoever is in the next Indian government, whoever ends up being a part of that government,” Harf said but declined to “comment on sort of internal Indian politics.”
On the BJP’s manifesto and other declarations about revamping India’s nuclear policy, Harf said, “What we’re doing right now is waiting to see the outcome of the election and to see what the government looks like. And we’ll work with whoever it is, and we’ll talk on the whole range of issues we always talk about, and I think we’ll take issues as they come then. I don’t want to get ahead of the process of the election.”
Harf was upbeat on the US-India trade relations and people-to-people bonds, telling journalists that the US-India “bilateral trade has grown to nearly $100 billion and there’s more room to keep growing.” She added, “That helps not just India but also Americans, American businesses, American workers here at home. So that’s certainly one place we want to continue to work together.”
“Another is on people-to-people ties. We have something like 113,000 Indian students studying in the US just this year, which I think is second only to China,” Harf said, noting, “So certainly at the people-to-people level, we think there is great room to keep working together, again, which benefits both of our countries.”