India's Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi is a "pragmatist" and will not be hung up about US' denial of a visa to him, but it will take "more careful management and attention" to overcome the "pain" of the past years, a former top American diplomat has said.
Frank Wisner, former US Ambassador to India, said while Narendra Modi's "instinct" will be to give economic growth a priority in India, he cannot escape the "three big issues" and major foreign policy challenges related to China, Pakistan and Afghanistan as he assumes power.
Wisner said the US and India "are going to have to work on the relationship" even as the denial of the visa to Narendra Modi will remain an issue that cannot be wished away.
"We as Americans were wise to step into a new relationship with Modi with a degree of diffidence," Wisner said.
"The denial of the visa is a fact, it cannot be just wished away (by saying) the past is the past and the future is ours. It is going to take more careful management and attention to the relationship to overcome some of that pain," Wisner said during a discussion organised by Asia Society here yesterday on the Indian elections.
He said Narendra Modi is a "pragmatist" and is not going to be hung up (over the visa issue) "but this hurt is going to be evident".
Welcoming President Barack Obama's conversation with Modi after his election victory and his invitation to visit the White House, Wisner said Vice President Joe Biden ought to visit India as an "envoy" and discuss ways to strengthen ties.
"We need to get the strategic dialogues set up and running again. We are going to have to work on this relationship. We cannot assume that the job is all Modi is to do. That will be the right instinct," he said.
Wisner said the election did not reveal very much about Modi's thinking on foreign policy.
On other foreign policy challenges, Wisner said he does not see Modi taking "initiatives" with Pakistan even if there may be opportunities.
"He will be very cautious about doing that and that may prove to be a risk for him, for Pakistan as a problem for India never stays still."
On China, Wisner said he does not expect Modi to be "confrontational", but will "nonetheless work for practical deals" and continue to strengthen India's defence capacity.
The former ambassador said under Modi, India would find itself "struggling" to keep some balance in Afghanistan