WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is inviting India's next prime minister, Narendra Modi, to visit the United States, offering a fresh start to a relationship bruised by a decision years ago not to let Modi into the U.S.
In a phone call to Modi on Friday, Obama congratulated the Indian leader and his Bharatiya Janata Party on their victory in India's national election, the White House said. Obama told Modi he looks forward to cooperating closely to deepen the relationship between the U.S. and the world's largest democracy.
Obama invited Modi to come to Washington "at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship," the White House said.
The invitation marked an attempt to bury the hatchet with Modi and repair ties between the U.S. and India that were strained by the arrest late last year of an Indian diplomat in New York.
A Hindu nationalist and leader of India's opposition, Modi was decisively elected India's next leader in what the White House described as the largest free and fair election in human history.
But in 2005, Washington denied Modi a visa, alleging he was complicit in religious riots in 2002 that killed more than 1,000 Muslims.
Modi's party maintains he was exonerated when investigators appointed by India's Supreme Court in 2010 did not find prosecutable evidence that Modi had willfully allowed the 2002 communal violence. Still, rights groups maintain there is strong evidence linking Modi's administration with the attacks.