Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi/Washington: A day after reports claimed that Narendra Modi will hold a summit meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington in September this year, the US on Thursday announced that it is looking forward to welcoming the new Indian Prime Minister.
However, the suspense on the timing of Modi`s visit to Washington continued when the United States refrained from making any announcement on the possible trip in September.
"We look forward to welcoming the Prime Minister to Washington, nothing to announce on timing at this point," State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters on Thursday at her daily press conference.
"I don`t have any more details. We said we look forward to welcoming him," Harf reiterated when pressed further.
The US denied Modi a visa in 2005 over the Gujarat riots, in which over a 1,000 people, mostly Muslims were killed. Modi was Gujarat chief minister when the riots occured and the US State Department invoked a little-known US law passed in 1998 that makes foreign officials responsible for "severe violations of religious freedom" ineligible for visas.
After the swearing-in of Modi, who led the BJP to a spectacular victory in the General Election, Obama in a message vowed to work closely together with the new Indian prime minister “for years to come”.
Obama was quick to acknowledge Modi’s “resounding” victory in the election and extended an invitation to him to visit Washington – effectively ending the visa ban on him.
Obama is believed to be keen to patch up the damage to Indo-US ties as fast as possible. His meeting with Modi will be the second within the span of a year with an Indian prime minister. He had met Manmohan Singh in September last year during the former prime minister’s visit to Washington enroute to the UN General Assembly.
Earlier last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry had welcomed Narendra Modi to US during his meeting with the Indian Ambassador to the United States S Jaishankar.
Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal is scheduled to hold meetings in New Delhi over the next several days establishing the first high-level contact between the Obama Administration and the Modi Government after the latter came back to power on May 26.
Biswal, who is Obama administration`s point person for South and Central Asia, reached New Delhi on Friday from China.
"Some very productive consultations w (with) my Chinese counterparts on regional connectivity," Biswal tweeted.
In a statement, the North American Punjabi Association welcomed the purposed meeting between Modi and Obama in Washington in September.
"This meeting is a step in national interest," said Satnam Singh Chahal, its executive director.
NAPA, he said, will write to Modi to raise the issue of Security and Safety of Sikhs residing in the United States.
(With Agency inputs)