ailing planet

Topics: United States, Barack Obama, President of the United States Pages: 2 (769 words) Published: October 8, 2014
(Reuters) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off his maiden visit to the United States as India’s leader on Friday, facing an unwelcome reminder of his once-strained relations with his host nation: a lawsuit alleging he failed to stop anti-Muslim rioting in 2002. Washington and New Delhi brushed off the suit brought in a U.S. court on the eve of Modi's arrival, saying it would not affect the visit, which includes an address at the U.N. General Assembly in New York and meetings with President Barack Obama. However, it made for an awkward start to a trip aimed at revitalising a business and security relationship that both countries consider important, but which has been beset by peripheral squabbles and long failed to live up to its billing. Before his May election, Modi was not welcome in the United States because of the riots in Gujarat, in which more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, died in reprisals after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was set on fire. The Hindu nationalist Modi was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 under a U.S. law that bars entry to foreigners who have committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom." However, Obama was quick to invite him after his election. The Indian government called the lawsuit, filed on Thursday in a New York federal court by a little-known human rights group called American Justice Center, a "frivolous and malicious attempt to distract attention" from Modi's visit. The case appears largely symbolic and unlikely to bring any serious legal consequences. White House spokesman Josh Earnest stressed that heads of government enjoyed immunity from U.S. lawsuits and said he did not think the issue would affect efforts to deepen a "highly valued" strategic partnership. Analysts said the suit was a clear attempt to embarrass Modi, who has carefully nurtured an image in recent years as a modernising reformist who can rescue India's ailing economy. On Thursday, the U.S. business lobby questioned Modi's...
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