May 17, 2014

Modi and US Visa: Why Now

By William Avery
Those in both countries rooting for the relationship to recover and prosper thought it had hit rock bottom with the arrest and detention of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade.
When Modi was declared his party's prime ministerial candidate last September, Obama could have quietly issued a visa waiver. Story over, strategic partnership back on track.

Yet Obama has kept the visa ban in place, reaching out to Modi only to the extent of sending his ambassador to Gujarat to meet him in person.

So here we are with a newly elected and visa-less PM Modi. How long are American policymakers going to let this wound fester? Are they prepared to go years without reciprocal state visits? Prepared to watch old defence deals sour, and new ones go to the Russians?

Obama's inaction on the visa is inexplicable. Did Obama's respect and affection for Manmohan Singh deter a clear-headed presidential assessment of Modi's potential importance to the US? Did Obama hope that Rahul Gandhi would somehow conjure up an electoral victory and thereby make the Modi visa issue disappear? If so Obama just wagered the health of the Indo-US relationship on the outcome of an election. And lost.

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