Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#AboutTurn: Obama, Cameron send congratulations to Modi after landslide victory

British Prime Minister David Cameron and US leader Barack Obama have joined the chorus of world leaders paying their congratulations after Narendra Modi was declared the leader of one of the world's modern superpowers on Friday.

Following Mr Modi's landslide victory Mr Cameron was quick to tweet: "Congratulations@narendramodi on victory in India’s elections. Keen to work together to get the most from UK-India relationship".

The Foreign Office issued a separate statement from Foreign Secretary William Hague.

“I congratulate Narendra Modi and the BJP on their success and look forward to forging an even closer partnership with India in the months ahead.

“With 815 million eligible voters, 915,000 polling stations, and nine days of voting over five weeks, India has seen the largest parliamentary election in the world.

“The UK has strong ties with India and the British Government looks forward to working with the new Indian Government to build on this relationship and deliver security, growth and prosperity for both our nations,” Mr Hague said.

The British Prime Minister’s specially appointed Indian Diaspora Champion, MP Priti Patel, offered her congratulations on behalf of the British Gujarati community.

“Britain’s Gujarati community are rightly proud of Narendra Modi, his achievements and his dedication to his home state of Gujarat.  The UK has already achieved a great deal with India, and we look forward to working with the new government to deepen our partnership and to welcoming the new Prime Minister and his administration to Britain,” she said.

Meanwhile U.S. President Barack Obama issued his own felicitations and invited him to the White House, even though Mr Modi was barred - along with Britain - from the United States less than 10 years ago over his failure to protect Muslims in Gujarat during communal rioting in 2002.

Obama told Modi by telephone that he looked forward to working closely with him to "fulfill the extraordinary promise of the U.S.-India strategic partnership," the White House said.

"The president invited Narendra Modi to visit Washington at a mutually agreeable time to further strengthen our bilateral relationship."

A U.S. visit could come as soon as the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September, when Modi could also visit Washington.

The administration of President George W. Bush denied Modi a visa in 2005 under a 1998 U.S. law barring entry to foreigners who have committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom."

Modi denied any wrongdoing in relation to the Gujarat riots and India's Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that he had no case to answer.

The anti-Modi lobby in the United States has dwindled. In March, a congressional report said Modi would qualify for a visa if he became leader.

Washington sees its relationship with India as critical, partly to counterbalance China's rising power. 

Obama has called it "one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century."

A Modi government could boost investor confidence though residual bad feeling over the visa issue will need to dissipate.

The U.S.-India relationship hit its lowest ebb in a decade last year after a junior Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, was arrested and strip-searched in New York. The U.S. ambassador to India resigned after the incident and has yet to be replaced.

Businessmen attending an election result lunch at the Indian ambassador's residence in Washington on Friday expressed optimism about a more investor-friendly environment under Modi.

However, some privately expressed concern about a possible revival in communal violence.

Last month, Nisha Biswal, the top U.S. diplomat for South Asia, said the United States wants bilateral trade of $500 billion a year, up from about $100 billion currently.

One concern for Western businesses is the BJP's welcoming of foreign direct investment in all sectors that create local jobs excluding supermarkets, a setback to retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Carrefour.

Drug patents are another sore point. The government has been considering allowing the generic manufacture of a number of patented drugs to give India's 1.2 billion people access to affordable medicines, putting it at odds with Western pharmaceutical companies.



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