The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

May 13, 2014

US has uneasy ties with Indian election leader

WASHINGTON (AP) — Indian elections results due Friday provide a chance to repair relations with the U.S. that were strained by the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York in December. But there's a big catch: Washington's uneasy relationship with the man expected to become India's next prime minister.

Hindu nationalist leader Narendra Modi was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 for alleged complicity in religious riots in 2002 that killed more than 1,000 Muslims. Exit polls show his Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies with a large lead over the ruling Congress party and its allies after voting ended Monday.

The Obama administration started mending fences in February, when, for the first time in Modi's decade-long tenure as the top official in Gujarat state, the U.S. ambassador met with him. Officials since have said whoever is elected India's next leader would be welcome to the U.S., leaving little doubt that if Modi becomes prime minister, he could visit Washington.

On Monday, President Barack Obama congratulated India on its national election and said the U.S. will work closely with India's next government.

"We look forward to working with the leaders chosen by the Indian people to advance this important partnership and to set an ambitious agenda," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

But the controversy over Modi's visa could leave some hard feelings.

The Bharatiya Janata Party says Modi got a clean bill when investigators appointed by India's Supreme Court in 2010 did not find prosecutable evidence that Modi had willfully allowed the 2002 communal violence, but rights groups maintain there's strong evidence linking his administration with the attacks, and he remains a divisive figure. Last year, plans for Modi to address by video a University of Pennsylvania conference on the Indian economy were scrapped following opposition from Indian-American professors, alumni and students.

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