WASHINGTON: Calling India a "very important strategic partner", the U.S. hopes that its "enduring partnership" with India will only grow under the new government led by Narendra Modi despite the flap over his visa.
But despite the direct invitation from Obama ending the over decade-long U.S. boycott of the Bharatiya Janata Party leader, whose U.S. visa was revoked in 2005 for his alleged role during the 2002 Gujarat riots, the State department continued to play word games over the issue.
"I'm not going to get into the tick-tock, but heads of government and heads of state are eligible for an A-1 visa and must travel to the United States on an A-1 visa regardless of the purpose of the trip," Psaki said when asked if the U.S. visa ban on Modi had ended.
"As prime minister of India, obviously Modi would be a head of state, and you saw the announcement from the White House this weekend, after the President's call, that they have invited him and would welcome him to the United States," Psaki said.But Modi have to apply for the visa to come to the U.S.? "Again, I'm not going to get into the tick-tock of the logistics, but obviously heads of state come to the United States on A-1 visas," she repeated declining to say if the U.S. had talked to Modi's team on the issue.
Asked if she read anything in Modi not tweeting his thanks to President Obama's congratulations, Psaki said: "I don't have any Twitter analysis to share. We look forward to welcoming him to the United States when that visit is scheduled."
"I think our relationship between the United States and India is so strong and enduring we won't worry about the Twitter rank order," she added.
Asked who would be the new U.S. point person for dealing with the new Modi government once the U.S. ambassador Nancy Powell leaves later this month, Psaki noted that the U.S. has "an extensive team on the ground, a very large presence in India, given the importance of our relationship."
"There will be a range of officials on the ground who will be in touch with the new government and be working with them" she said.
"That just as is true with many, many governments where they have a very important strategic relationship."