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US Outreach to Controversial Indian Politician Begins

A high-level US congressional delegation visited Narendra Modi in India today; it’s a sign that Washington is warming to the politician, who is expected to make a run for Prime Minister next year. It was the highest level visit by American lawmakers since anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002, in which hundreds died. Modi is accused of aiding or turning a blind eye to the violence.

The delegation, which included Republicans Aaron Schock, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Cynthia Lummis, had nothing but good things to say about and to Modi. The lawmakers also invited Modi to visit the United States, a controversial proposition given that Modi was disinvited from addressing a conference at the University of Pennsylvania by video earlier this month after an outcry from students, teachers, and alumni.

“Unlike other places in India our foreign investment is welcome [in Gujarat],” said Schock. “My colleagues and I were thoroughly impressed with our meeting with Modi and I will tell you that he is a very dynamic person and he has a pretty impressive track-record here in the state of Gujarat.”

McMorris Rodgers promised to work with the Obama administration to ease travel and other restrictions on Modi that have been in place since the 2002 riots. After the meeting Modi tweeted a similarly cheery message: “Am thankful to the members of USA Congress & business persons for their kind words on Gujarat’s development.”

Modi is all but certain to make a run for India’s top job during next year’s elections. He’ll be on the ticket for the “Hindu nationalist” BJP party, which will duke it out with the Congress Party and its young scion Rahul Gandhi. A poll conducted by Ipsos earlier this month found that 43 percent of Indians support Modi as the country’s next Prime Minister, with Gandhi coming in second, at 36 percent.

Modi’s not going anywhere. The Obama administration and others in Washington might soon have to face the prospect of a politician they strongly dislike taking the reins of government in a vital allied country.

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