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Obama Administration Welcomes Outcome of India’s ‘Historic National Election’

  • Victor Beattie

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), gestures towards his supporters from his car during a road show upon his arrival at the airport in New Delhi, May 17, 2014.

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), gestures towards his supporters from his car during a road show upon his arrival at the airport in New Delhi, May 17, 2014.

The White House has congratulated India's Narendra Modi and his pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for its election victory announced Friday, saying the prime-minister-to-be will be welcomed when he visits the United States. The BJP’s resounding victory may result in improved U.S.-India relations, as the new government seeks to ramp up the country’s economic development.

White House spokesman Jay Carney congratulated the Indian people on what he called ‘a historic national election,’ which saw more voters cast ballots freely and fairly than in any other election in human history. The Election Commission of India says a record 66 percent of the country's 815-million registered voters went to the polls.

“We congratulate Narendra Modi and the BJP on winning a majority of seats in this historic election. Once the government is formed, we look forward to working closely with the prime minister and the Cabinet to advance our strong bilateral relationship based on shared democratic values. We would also like to thank Prime Minister [Manmohan] Singh for the role he played in transforming our strategic partnership during his 10 years in office,” said Carney.

President Barack Obama phoned the incoming Indian prime minister Friday and invited him to visit Washington.

Singh’s ruling Indian National Congress party was crushed in the election, a five-week undertaking that ended last week with the BJP winning the first one-party majority in parliament in 30 years. That means it can create a government without forming a coalition with regional leaders.

The Congress Party has led India for the past 10 years but has been hit by a series of high-profile corruption scandals, high inflation and lagging economic growth.

Controversy has swirled around Modi since 2002, when Hindu-Muslim rioting in western Gujarat state killed more than 1,000 people. Modi, the state’s chief minister since 2001, was denied a visa to visit the United States in 2005. India's Supreme Court recently cleared him of charges that he incited the violence.

Rafiq Dossani, a South Asia analyst with the RAND Corporation, speaking from Mumbai, said the paralysis that gripped India’s outgoing coalition government is now gone, and that should benefit India’s ties with the United States.

“For example, the [2008] nuclear fuel agreement, the delay on [opening up the] retail [sector], the delay on foreign investment [legislation], the delay on [legislation allowing] foreign universities [to set up campuses in India]. All of these things are things that America wanted and the Congress Party wanted and were held up by the paralysis of governance because of the coalition rules, and that’s gone now and that’s also what Mr. Modi wants. I think he’s taken a stance against foreign investment and retail, but I think he will quickly backtrack on that because, in his earlier party days, he wasn’t against it, and he’s actively wooed foreign investment, while chief minister of Gujarat,” said Dossani.

As for the geo-political aspects of the relationship, Dossani believes India will become a more participative democracy in Asia, alongside South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

He also expects India to be less accommodative and more assertive in its relations with China, but does not think that will happen right away. Dossani said Modi will likely continue current Indian policy of involvement in a post-NATO Afghanistan and that might lead to confrontation with rival Pakistan.

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