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US signals change, says Modi will get visa if he becomes PM

NEW DELHI: Washington will drop a travel ban on Narendra Modi if he becomes the Prime Minister. US assistant secretary of state Nisha Desai Biswal finally buried the controversy over Modi’s visa as she told a TV channel that the US would welcome the Gujarat CM if he ascends to the top job.

“I would just say that the United States has welcomed every leader of this vibrant democracy, and that a democratically elected leader of India will be a welcome partner,” Biswal said adding Washington is ready to do business with him. For nine years, the US has kept its visa ban on Modi who has won three successive terms in Gujarat.

“Visa issues are handled on a case by case basis. And determinations are made based on the facts of the day and reviewed at the time a request is made,” she said according to a transcript released by the US embassy. This has been the official position of the US for some time, which they have used to claim there was no change in their visa policy.

Biswal is on her first visit to India to repair some serious cracks in the Indo-US relations in the wake of the Khobragade episode and over contentious trade and IPR issues on the Indian side and protectionism and immigration issues on the US side.

The US recently opened a channel of communication with Modi, widely seen as a frontrunner in the coming Lok Sabha elections. Last month, US ambassador Nancy Powell travelled to Gandhinagar to meet the Gujarat CM and start a conversation at the official level.

Despite a large population of Gujaratis in the US, Modi has remained beyond the pale for the US administration since the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The UK made up with him a year and half ago, while countries like China, Japan, Israel, Denmark and Canada swiftly moved in to build ties with Modi. Modi has so far maintained a discreet silence on the visa ban. While Modi’s advisers say he recognizes the importance of ties with the US, nobody is clear about whether Modi would actually take up the US visa offer.

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