Obama: India's Modi, previously banned, invited to US as PM

 

President Obama has invited India's prime minister-elect, Narendra Modi, to visit the U.S., despite a decade-long travel ban imposed over his role in anti-Muslim riots that left thousands dead, the White House said Friday.

Obama called Modi on Friday to say he "looks forward to working closely with Mr. Modi to fulfill the extraordinary promise of the U.S.-India strategic partnership," the White House said in a read-out of their call.

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Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party won Friday's vote, served as governor of the Indian state of Gujarat during a series of riots in 2002 that left an estimated 2,000 people dead. Three years later, the U.S. denied Modi a visa as investigators looked into his role in the riots.

While his political opponents seized on the incident to paint Modi as a Hindu supremacist, the future prime minister has denied any wrongdoing. In 2010, India's supreme court ruled that he would not face charges stemming from the riots.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Modi would be allowed to freely travel to the U.S.

"I can tell you that the prime minister of India will be welcomed to the United States," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "And I would also note that U.S. officials, including Ambassador [Nancy] Powell, have met with Mr. Modi. So he is certainly not unknown to us."

Carney said he did not anticipate the prior diplomatic freeze would strain relations with the new Indian government.

"We look forward to working with the new government and the new prime minister, and we congratulate Mr. Modi and his party on their victory. I don't anticipate any problem in that regard," Carney said. "What we do anticipate is moving forward with the new government in strengthening a relationship that has already been strengthened significantly over the past years with Prime Minister [Manmohan] Singh at the helm in India."

Updated at 3:30 p.m.