India’s Narendra Modi went from international outcast to invited guest, as the U.S. and U.K. saluted his opposition bloc’s triumph in national elections.
U.S. President Barack Obama called Modi to congratulate him on his party’s success and invited him “to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship,” according to a White House statement. Modi already has accepted an invitation to visit the U.K., according to a statement from Prime Minister David Cameron’s office.
After anti-Muslim riots in 2002 in Gujarat, the state that Modi has governed since 2001, U.K. and U.S. officials refused to meet with him. The U.S. denied him a visa after human rights groups accused him of not moving to halt the carnage. Modi has repeatedly denied the accusations and a Supreme Court-appointed panel found no evidence he gave orders that prevented assistance from reaching those being attacked.
Relationships have improved more recently, with the U.K. High Commissioner meeting Modi 19 months ago and the U.S. ambassador doing the same in February.
The Obama administration congratulated India “on an historic national election, which saw more voters cast their ballots freely and fairly than in any election in human history,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters in Washington.
Cameron said on his office’s official Twitter account that he is “keen to work together to get the most from the U.K.- India relationship.”
Among India’s neighbors, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif congratulated Modi on his victory, Sharif’s press secretary said yesterday by phone, as did Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who also invited Modi for a state visit. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also sent well wishes to Modi, Indian national broadcaster DD News reported.
China is willing to work with the new Indian government, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing. “China-India relations are facing new opportunities of development,” she said, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
India has troubled relationships with some of its neighbors. In a speech on Feb. 22, Modi criticized the ruling Congress government for allowing an influx of migrants from predominantly Muslim Bangladesh. While Hindus fleeing persecution from attacks would be welcome, others would be sent home, he said.
Modi has attacked China for its “expansionary mindset” and said on Feb. 22 that India would never give up territory. He was speaking at an election rally in Arunachal Pradesh, a state on the northeastern Indian border that is partly claimed by China.
Nuclear-capable India and Pakistan, separated in 1947 after the end of British rule, have fought four wars for territorial dominance. India has accused Pakistan of aiding terrorism and an insurgency in the northern state of Kashmir, charges Pakistan has always denied.
“To have a reasonable discussion, first the blasts and gunshots have to stop,” Modi said in a May 8 interview on the Times Now TV channel, when asked about whether the two nations would continue talks.
Sri Lanka, located at India’s southern tip, is often called the Teardrop of India. Regional parties in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which shares cultural and religious links with Tamils in Sri Lanka, had pressed the Congress to take a tougher stance against the island-nation over alleged war crimes.