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US closely watching Modi’s moves

Washington/New Delhi, Sep 23 (IANS) Every diplomatic move of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, including his latest interaction with Chinese President Xi Jinping, is being closely watched by the US as it prepares to welcome Modi for a major summit with President Barack Obama next week – to glean as to how to interact with India’s new prime minister who is known to spring surprises.

“Modi is not predictable, like his predecessor Manmohan Singh was; and he springs surprises at every turn,” a source in the know of things told IANS declining to be named.

While Modi’s statement earlier that relations between two nations “should not and cannot be influenced by incidents related to individuals” has laid to rest any nervousness on the part of the US with regard to its 2005 ban on his entry, Washington is still at sea on which way things would turn out regarding interactions with Modi.

The US had denied Modi a visa in 2005 over the 2002 Gujarat riots in which over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed while he was the chief minister. It changed its policy earlier this year after it became clear that Modi was headed to lead the nation of over 1.2 billion people – a huge market for the US.

Modi’s welcoming Xi Jinping and his wife in Ahmedabad last week and the personal touch he gave by chaperoning them during their sojourn in that city was followed with interest in Washington, as well as his tough talk with Xi on the border incursions by Chinese troops.

“We’ve have been following everything about the new government.. but still we don’t know what to expect … But after Mr. Modi’s reassuring words the Obama administration is confident of a very good meeting,” another source added.

Modi, in an interview to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, said he is confident of India and the US developing a genuinely strategic relationship and that the ties will deepen further.

The Obama administration is preparing hard for the visit. The Charge d Affaires Kathleen Stephens is in Washington to prepare for Modi’s visit. The US has named an Indian American, Richard Rahul Verma, as the next envoy to India.

“A very warm welcome is being planned for Mr Modi. The US has very high hopes from this visit,” the source added.

Ties between India and the US had flagged over the past few years, and the row over the mishandling of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade had seen both sides locked in a bitter stand-off.

The Obama administration last month sent its topmost officials, including US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, to lay the ground for the red carpet welcome they are preparing for Modi when he arrives in Washington for the Sep 29-30 summit.

Both sides are keen to push ahead with ties, and Washington is keeping its fingers crossed that Modi, with his out-of-the-box thinking would spring some pleasant surprises on the relationship.

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