Hours after exit polls projected Narendra Modi as the next Prime Minister, two statements from the US praised India for conducting its largest-ever elections and pledged to work closely with the new government, and the BJP termed it an endorsement of its prime ministerial candidate.
A statement released by President Barack Obama said India had 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”.
The US President’s ringing endorsement for Indian democracy was immediately greeted by the BJP, buoyed by the exit polls conducted by TV channels indicating that the NDA will form the next government. “What Obama says shows in which direction the wind is blowing,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
US Department of State spokesperson Jen Psaki congratulated “people of India on their participation in the largest-ever free and fair democratic election in human history”.
“These elections are an inspiring example of the power of the democratic process in action, and the US, like so many others around the world, has great admiration and respect for the vibrancy, diversity, and resilience of India’s democracy,” she said in Washington.
“We look forward to working with the leaders chosen by the Indian people to advance this important partnership and to set an ambitious agenda.”
Modi is the only foreign government official who has been denied a visa under the US International Religious Freedom Act, for his alleged complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The US had also put an informal embargo on any contact between the US ambassador and Gujarat Government after the visa denial in 2005, though the US consul-general in Mumbai had kept in touch with the Gujarat Chief Minister.
The US had softened its stance on Modi in the past few months, when it became clear that the BJP was leading in the opinion polls.
And US ambassador Nancy Powell travelled to Gandhinagar to meet Modi in February.
A month later, the US Congressional Research Service issued a report on the legal scenario if Modi had to travel to Washington as the Prime Minister.
“If Narendra Modi were to become Prime Minister of India, he would automatically be eligible for an A-1 (diplomatic) visa as Head of State, regardless of the purpose of his visit,” said a Congressional memorandum dated March 18.
Meanwhile, Indian-American strategic analyst Ashley Tellis, writing for premier US think tank Carnegie Endowment, acknowledged on Monday that while Modi had said bilateral relations could not be influenced by incidents related to an individual, the slight might still cast a shadow.
Even though Tellis felt that Modi was pragmatic enough to go as per Indian national interests to increase the engagement with the US, he asserted that Washington also should do “extraordinary personal outreach to a miffed Modi, given both his past encounter with US policy and the larger American stakes in India’s success, not to mention the importance of promoting peace and prosperity within Southern Asia writ large”.