NEW YORK: India-U.S. relations could get off to a "pretty slow start" under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the two nations will have to get over the issues of denial of visa to him and arrest of an Indian diplomat as they seek to restore ties, a former U.S. envoy to India has said.
"The question is will there be a new understanding in Washington in the administration of the importance of the U.S.-India relationship. Because without that, Modi will be one hand clapping," Blackwill said at a session here organized by the Council on Foreign Relations on 'The New Indian Government'.
Blackwill, who was the U.S. ambassador to India between 2001-2003, said the U.S.-India relations have been in a "trough" for the last couple of years and there has been lack of attention at the highest levels on both sides.
With Modi being denied a U.S. visa for almost a decade, Blackwill said the question arises as to how much of Modi's personal feeling over the issue would effect state policy between Washington and New Delhi.He said that the decision to deny Modi a visa was "absolutely unique" and the people who made the decision "thought, it's pretty safe, because, he's never going to be Prime Minister".
Blackwill said the anger in India over the arrest and strip-search of Devyani Khobragade on visa fraud charges is "absolutely right" and will not subside "right away" adding that hopefully with the passage of time and on the back of "positive things happening in the relationship," the rage "will ebb to some degree".
"We have to get over the visa issue. And we have to get over (the arrest of Khobragade). Both of those have to get pause ... There is something to the proposition that a liberal Democrat and a Hindu Conservative Nationalist aren't necessarily going to get along naturally.
"But both have interests that will at least hopefully bring the U.S.-India relationship back to a more prominent place in both capitols," he added.
Participating in the session, economist and Columbia University professor Jagdish Bhagwati said now that Modi is Prime Minister, he would be able to assess what really led to the denial of the visa.
Blackwill listed the rise of Chinese power in Asia, getting global investments back in India, a post-2014 Afghanistan and Pakistan as the main issues for U.S.-India relations going forward.
Bhagwati said the U.S. should stop talking about outsourcing as a problem since that line of thought irks Indians.