US think tanks, ex-diplomats bat for grand reception for Narendra Modi

Representatives of top US think tanks and former diplomats have appealed to lawmakers that Prime Minister Narendra Modi be accorded a grand reception when he arrives here to meet US President Barack Obama later this year.

Washington: Representatives of top US think tanks and former diplomats have appealed to lawmakers that Prime Minister Narendra Modi be accorded a grand reception when he arrives here to meet US President Barack Obama later this year.

Testifying before a Congressional sub-committee, the experts praised Modi`s steps with regard to economic policies, administrative measure to revive India`s growth to more than eight per cent and his foreign policy, particularly that of improving ties with neighbours.

"Modi`s commitment to good governance is the best way to engage on the difficult and often emotional issues that come with his elevation to power as a strong nationalist with conservative Hindu credentials," said Vikram Singh, vice president, National Security and International Policy, Centre for American Progress.

"He is not likely to let lingering resentment over the denial of his visa in 2005 undermine US India cooperation in areas that will advance his national priorities. However, the warmth of his welcome in the United States this fall is important," he said.

"There is no point in taking half measures with the duly elected leader of the world`s largest democracy. Congress should invite Prime Minister Modi to address a joint meeting, as was done by his two immediate predecessors, Prime Minister Singh and Prime Minister Vajpayee," he said.

Singh said this does not mean being timid about concerns like Prime Minister Modi`s commitment to secularism, human rights and harmony among India`s majority and minority communities that will ultimately define his legacy and India`s continued success and stability.

"But the US must take a forward looking approach. Modi has been cleared by Indian courts of any charges in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which claimed over 1,000 lives and elicited no apology or compensation for victims," he said.

"Now, as the duly elected leader of the country, he has promised good governance, and that will require him to deliver justice for all Indian communities," he added.

Frank G Wisner, former US Ambassador to India, told lawmakers that Modi`s government has sent a strong signal that it intends to be business friendly.

"In my judgement, India`s government will address individual business problems American enterprises face, as well as and the policies which lay behind them," Wisner said.

"Prime Minister Modi`s recent election is virtually unprecedented; he comes to office with great authority; the opposition is in disarray and will be so for sometime to come.

"We are wise to assume that the Prime Minister and his party may be in office for the next ten years. It is a good time to define our political and security relationship," he said.

Lisa Curtis of The Heritage Foundation said US officials should give Modi a chance to prove he will not be a divisive leader and will work instead to improve the Indian economy for everyone`s benefit.

"Modi stayed away from communal politics during the election campaign and focused instead on the economy and good governance," she said.

"The rise to power of the BJP, led by now-Prime Minister Modi, creates an opportunity to end the malaise that has taken over India US relations in the last few years. Modi`s upcoming visit to Washington on September 30 is an opportunity for the US administration to demonstrate its commitment to moving relations forward with the new government," Curtis said.

Richard Rossow, Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies at Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said the reasons for strategic partnership with India are stronger now than they were a decade ago.

"The last time the BJP was in power, in less than six years we went from nuclear sanctions to nuclear cooperation. When interests are aligned and leaders think big, the relationship can progress faster than most of us believe is possible," he said.

The BJP, he said, is not guided by India`s traditional policy of non-alignment. Instead of standing on lofty principles which may, in fact, be at odds with her circumstances, the Modi government will strike out in bold new directions which meet specific goals.
"My biggest fear is that the US-- both government and industry -- suffer from `failed expectation syndrome`. Not everyone on our side of the ocean seems to understand the sea change in Delhi, and how this could serve to deepen our partnership. We may not be prepared to make a second `grand overture`, or be receptive should India signal its interest in bold new ideas," Rossow said.
"My second fear is that we will approach the Modi government with the same agenda we used in recent years. We need to recognise the Modi government`s priorities, and where these priorities intersect with our own. This middle ground must become our shared agenda," Rossow said.

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