Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was denied a visa by the U.S. when he was chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, has accepted U.S. President Barack Obama’s invitation for a visit to Washington and is expected to travel for a meeting in September, local media reports said Thursday.
The invitation from Obama caps a period of rapprochement by Western governments and leaders toward Modi, who was shunned for years after communal riots in the state of Gujarat, of which he was chief minister, claimed the lives of 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in 2002. In recent months, as Modi ascended politically within India and, with the help of a pro-business campaign platform, led his party to a landslide victory in the national elections to claim power in New Delhi, international attitudes toward him, who is also widely regarded as a divisive leader in the country, have softened.
At the meeting in Washington, Modi and Obama are expected to discuss issues ranging from bilateral trade to security issues in the region, according to the Times of India, while the Hindustan Times reported that Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the Indian ambassador to the U.S., is scheduled to visit New Delhi on June 8 to consult with the external affairs ministry and the prime minister’s office, and brief Modi on how to take the relationship with the U.S. forward.
While Modi has expressed his intention to open up sections of the Indian economy to foreign investment to rejuvenate growth and create jobs, the Obama administration has also reportedly set a goal of increasing annual trade with India to $500 billion. Washington also views India as a crucial geopolitical ally to counter China's growing influence in the region.
“All pending bilateral issues will be discussed in the one-day meeting as Modi is keen to push the relationship forward for its economic returns for India,” a senior external affairs ministry official said, the Hindustan Times reported.
During his trip to the U.S., Modi is also expected to visit the U.N. General Assembly in New York, reports said.