It began in February, when then-U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell paid a visit to a man long shunned and distrusted by Washington. Narendra Modi had been blacklisted by the State Department, disinvited from a high-profile speaking engagement, and denounced as a figure of religious intolerance. But once it became clear that he might actually have a chance at winning India’s election, Ambassador Powell came a-calling. She brought flowers and posed, smiling, for photos alongside a man whom some in the States thought should be in jail. Now that Modi is set to head one of India’s strongest-ever administrations, the U.S. (and other Western leaders), are pushing the reset button.“We recognize the Indian electorate has weighed in with a resounding mandate for Prime Minister Modi and we want to work with him for advancing his goals for India as a regional and global player,” said the State Department’s representative for south and central Asia. “The President stated definitely that we will be welcoming Prime Minister Modi. We, like rest of the world, have seen a remarkable election and a remarkable transition … the mandate the Indian electorate put forward is one that we strongly support and we stand ready to engage and assist when the new government is ready.”This makes sense: The U.S. could hardly choose not to deal with Modi no matter what he may or may not have done in the past. And the Indian judicial system has cleared Modi of any responsibility for the 2002 Gujarat riots, which many have accused him of failing to prevent (and even of encouraging). That’s good enough for President Obama. Others, like Edward Luce of the FT, suggest that Modi’s past should still be cause for great alarm. Luce alleges that Modi gave the rioters a “cue” in a public statement, and “No one, Indian or foreigner, who covered the following, gruesome, 72 hours, was in any doubt about the meaning of Mr Modi’s signal. For three days and nights, mobs of fanatics went from house to house armed with electoral rolls (to identify the religion of each household), dragged women and children out of their homes, poured kerosene down their throats and ignited them to crowds of cheering onlookers. The police in Ahmedabad and other Gujarati cities did not intervene.”But there’s no escaping Modi now. India has spoken, and Modi is on the rise. The U.S.—and the world—has vowed to put aside doubts about his past and treat him as any other national leader. For a country as important as India, that’s just about all you can do.
The Lion of GujaratUS Pushes Reset Button With Modi