Lawsuit Makes for Awkward Start to Modi’s US Visit

Lawsuit Makes for Awkward Start to Modi’s US VisitLawsuit Makes for Awkward Start to Modi’s US Visit

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.

It made for an awkward start to a trip aimed at revitalizing 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, Reuters wrote.

Before his May election, Modi was not welcome in the United States because of the riots in his home state of 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 US visa in 2005 under a US law. 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 US lawsuits.

Analysts said the suit was a clear attempt to embarrass Modi, who has carefully nurtured an image in recent years as a modernizing reformist who can rescue India’s ailing economy.