A decade ago, the U.S. saw Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an international pariah. Next week he’ll address a sell-out crowd at Madison Square Garden and stroll down the red carpet at the White House.
Modi starts a five-day trip to New York and Washington on Sept. 26, the first since he was denied a U.S. visa over 2002 anti-Muslim riots in his state of Gujarat. His landslide election win in May sent the Obama administration scurrying to rebuild ties with the new leader of the world’s biggest democracy -- an effort now starting to bear fruit.
“The primary objective is to reset the relationship with Modi as an individual,”Milan Vaishnav, an associate in the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said by phone. “The president wants to indicate that whatever may have happened in the past, they should begin a new chapter in the relationship.”
Warmer relations between the U.S. and Modi would help them counter China’s growing assertiveness over disputed territory, a goal they share even as India courts investment from Beijing’s leaders to revive Asia’s third-biggest economy. Closer ties would also yield more energy and defense deals between the world’s largest weapons exporter and biggest arms importer.