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'Modi is an able man; the US has to come to terms with him'

Last updated on: January 28, 2014 11:56 IST

'Modi is an able man; the US has to come to terms with him'

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC

Former US ambassador to India Frank G Wisner says Americans will have to confront the fact that as prime minister -- if that's where Narendra Modi ends up -- they are going to have to do business with him because the relationship with India is too important to leave it on the altar of disagreements over one man.

Rediff.com's Aziz Haniffa reports from Washington, DC.

Frank G Wisner, a former United States ambassador to India, asserts that his country has to come to terms with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi because if he does become India's next prime minister, Washington, whether it likes him or not, will have to do business with him.

Wisner, now the chief foreign policy adviser at Patton Boggs, LLC -- one of the top lobbying firms in the US -- in a teleconference with members of the Asia Society and the media, asked if the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate "has the stuff to make a prime minister or if he is something of a loose cannon," acknowledged, "Modi has a history all of us know."

"But there is one fact and that is over the past year, Modi has dominated the Indian political conversation, and Indians are looking at him not as a Gujarati chief minister, but as a national leader."

Wisner, considered the godfather of the US-India Business Council, in a ringing endorsement of Modi, said, "He (Modi) has a record behind him -- a record of accomplishment in business, in administration, in the management of his state, in political moves and political capabilities."

"He has the ability to win elections," he added, though Modi "is dragging this terrible problem of Godhra and the communal riots that followed in its wake, even though no court case has been filed against him -- won against him -- but he is still very much in that line of sight."

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Aziz Haniffa

"Business India," Wisner argued, "and many other key constituents in the country have recognised that they are going to come to terms with Modi."

"I think all of us as Americans are going to have to face the fact that as prime minister -- if that's where he ends up -- we too are going to do business with him because the relationship with India is too important to leave it on the altar of disagreements over one man."

"Modi is an able man, and we'll have to see how he conducts himself if he rises to the top," the former ambassador added.

India's next general election, Wisner felt, would be "the most consequential" because "India's future over the next decade or plus is going to be settled," and hence "now is the time particularly to give priority to the strategic US-India relationship."

"It is absolutely clear there are going to be major changes in the Indian political landscape," he added.

And while acknowledging that "it is too early to predict just how it's going to come out," Wisner continued to make the case that it was likely the BJP would prevail and Modi would be India's next prime minister.




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