Obama’s phone call thawed US-Modi relations: US interim envoy

US President Barack Obama’s congratulatory telephone call to Narendra Modi after the Lok Sabha results brought about a thaw in the frosty relationship between the US and the Prime Minister, interim US Ambassador to India Kathleen Stephens said on Aug 20. She said the US president made the call even before Modi was sworn in and that set the tone for future engagement between the US and the PM.

She was responding to a question on what changed the US stance towards the Indian leader particularly in light of the fact that he was labelled persona non grata and denied US visa in 2005 over the 2002 riots in Gujarat and alleged human rights violations under his watch. Stephens said the US holds India high in importance as is evident from top-level visits of US officials like Senator John McCain, John Kerry (Secretary of State), Penny Pritzker (Secretary of Commerce) and Chuck Hagel (Secretary of Defence).

“So we are placed well and signals from the (Indian) government are very clear. Not only at the prime ministerial level but at the level of the government also…a great priority has been given to the India-US relationship which President Obama has called a defining relationship,” Stephens said.

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