Under Narendra Modi, Blackwill sees slow start to India-US relations

Written by PTI | New York | Updated: Jun 3 2014, 23:40pm hrs
India-US relations could get off to a "pretty slow start" under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two nations will have to get over the issues of denial of visa to him and arrest of an Indian diplomat as they seek to restore ties, a former US envoy to India has said.

"(On) the US-India relationship, (Narendra Modi) will get off to a pretty slow start in it. But there are objective factors which will make him want to have a good relationship with the United States,"Robert Blackwill said.

"The question is will there be a new understanding in Washington in the administration of the importance of the US-India relationship. Because without that, Modi will be one hand clapping," Blackwill said at a session here organised by the Council on Foreign Relations on 'The New Indian Government'.

Blackwill, who was the US Ambassador to India between 20012003, said the US-India relations have been in a "trough" for the last couple of years and there has been lack of attention at the highest levels on both sides.

With Modi being denieda US visa for almost a decade, Blackwill said the question arises as to how much of Modi's personal feeling over the issue would effect state policy between Washington and New Delhi.

He said that the decision to deny Modi a visa was "absolutely unique" and the people who made the decision "thought, it's pretty safe, because, he's never going to be PrimeMinister".

Blackwill said the anger in India over the arrest and strip-search of Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud charges is "absolutely right" and will not subside "right away" adding that hopefully withthe passage of time and on the back of "positive things happening in the relationship," the rage "will ebb to some degree".

"We have to get over the visa issue. And we have to get over (the arrest of Khobragade). Both of those have to get pause...There is something to the proposition that a liberal Democrat anda Hindu Conservative Nationalist aren't necessarily going to get along naturally.

"But both have interests that will at least hopefully bring the US-India relationship back to a more prominentplace in both capitols," he added.

Participating in the session, economist and Columbia University professor Jagdish Bhagwati said now that Modi is Prime Minister, he would be able to assess what really led to the denial ofthe visa.

Blackwill listed the rise of Chinese power in Asia, getting global investments back in India, a post-2014 Afghanistan and Pakistan as the main issues for US-India relations going forward.

Bhagwati said the US should stop talking about outsourcing as a problem since that line of thought irks Indians.