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Cameron Open to Modi Visit; US Still Avoids


British Prime Minister David Cameron said this week he was open to meeting Narendra Modi, the controversial Indian politician who is the largest opposition party’s candidate for prime minister in next year’s elections.

Cameron is on a short visit to India before the Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka. “The connection is there, the engagement is there. I think the engagement should continue,” he said, as the Indian Express reports. “In time, yes. It’s good to meet. We have an approach of meeting all politicians and leaders. In the end, it will be for the people of India whom to elect. But I’m open to meeting elected leaders.”

For now, the US, on the other hand, is sticking to its current Modi policy: avoid. Top American officials have not met him on visits to India. He was denied a visa in 2005, and UPenn canceled Modi’s planned video conference speech in March after students and faculty protested. But Washington’s view of the controversial Gujarat chief minister could be thawing out. “If Modi would like to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant, he’s certainly free to do so,” said a State Department spokeswoman recently. Republican lawmakers sent a letter recently congratulating him on his appointment as the BJP’s candidate for prime minister. And, as an Obama administration official told the Times of India, “We will work with the leader of the world’s largest democracy. There is no question about that.”

Sometimes diplomats must work with unsavory characters. Such is the case with Modi. But the relationship between Washington and New Delhi is too important to let it deteriorate. If Modi become PM, if not before, the US government should reach out.

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  • wigwag

    “Sometimes diplomats must work with unsavory characters. Such is the case with Modi.” (Walter Russell Mead)

    Is Modi really so much more “unsavory” than Abbas, Erdogan, Rouhani or a half dozen other potentates Obama genuflects to? Or is it that Obama is happy to give a pass to unsavory characters as long as their Muslim and not Hindu?

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