Obama congratulates India for holding largest democratic election in history

Washington: As exit polls suggested that the Narendra Modi- led Bharatiya Janata Party was set to win the Indian election, President Barack Obama said the US looked forward to “working closely” with India’s next administration.

“I congratulate the people of India on concluding their national elections” he said in a statement Monday without any reference to the polls or likelihood of Modi, whom Washington has shunned for years for his alleged role in 2002 Gujarat riots, becoming the prime minister.

“India has set an example for the world in holding the largest democratic election in history, a vibrant demonstration of our shared values of diversity and freedom,” Obama said.

“The United States and India have developed a strong friendship and comprehensive partnership over the last two decades, which has made our citizens safer and more prosperous and which has enhanced our ability to work together to solve global challenges,” he said.

“We look forward to the formation of a new government once election results are announced and to working closely with India’s next administration to make the coming years equally transformative,” Obama said.

Earlier, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki also signalled that the US “looked forward to working with the next leader” of India even as she declined to comment on the issue of US visa for Modi, whose business visa was revoked in 2005.

“As you know, we don’t take positions in domestic politics in India or anywhere else,” she said when asked if Modi has the support of the US.

“As this has been election season in a large, pluralistic, multiparty democracy, it’s not a surprise that it’s going to take some time to, obviously, process the voting and we look forward to working with the next leader,” Psaki said.

Parrying the visa issue she said: “As you know, we don’t speak to visa acceptances, applications, et cetera. So I don’t have anything for you on that.”

Asked if the US viewed a successful election in India and successful relations with India as a counterweight to the Chinese, the spokesperson said: “We view our relationship with India as one that’s vitally important for economic, strategic reasons, and one that we look forward to continuing to grow in the future.”

“India continues to play a critical role in advancing prosperity, democracy, and stability across the Indo-Pacific region,” she stated earlier.

“Whether we’re working together to educate the next generation of engineers and entrepreneurs, or combating global challenges like climate change and violent extremism, the US-India partnership is essential to securing a brighter future for both of our peoples,” Psaki said.

“We look forward to working with the leaders chosen by the Indian people to advance this important partnership and to set an ambitious agenda,” she said.

Psaki also congratulated “the people of India on their participation in the largest-ever free and fair democratic election in human history.”

“Over 500 million eligible voters peacefully went to the polls over the last six weeks, often in remote or challenging locations,” she noted.

“These elections are an inspiring example of the power of the democratic process in action, and the United States, like so many others around the world, has great admiration and respect for the vibrancy, diversity, and resilience of India’s democracy,” Psaki said.