Gandhinagar: Ending a nine-year boycott after the 2002 Gujarat riots, the US today opened a channel of communication with its envoy Nancy Powell meeting BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi here.
While the agenda of the meeting was kept under wraps, the US has said it is part of increased engagement with Indian leaders across the political spectrum.
In a sudden u-turn, the US, which had shunned Modi after the post-Godhra riots and has refused visa to him since 2005, signalled the end of its boycott of Modi by seeking a meeting between Powell and Modi.
The envoy-level officer travelled to the city for the first time in the last 13 years to meet Modi, who greeted the delegation with flowers at his residence here and a hand shake.
The US had scotched speculation that the Modi-Powell meeting would lead to lifting of the visa ban on the BJP leader, insisting there was no change in its policy.
A consular level officer of Mumbai consulate had met Modi after his visa was revoked, but later as his stature grew in Indian politics, the chief minister had stopped giving time to junior officers.
However, business delegations from the US were always welcomed by the state administration and had also participated in bi-annual business events like ‘Vibrant Gujarat’.
Due to the travel ban, Modi has so far reached out to the Indian diaspora in the US via video-conferencing.
Powell will also meet Leader of Opposition in state Assembly Shankrsinh Vaghela, at his residence in Gandhinagar after her talks with Modi.
She is also scheduled to visit NGO Seva outlet and Pandit Deendayal Upadhayay Petroleum University later in the day.
Washington has made it clear that it was not taking any position on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Reiterating that the US does not take positions in elections of any country, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki argued that Powell meeting Modi is not an example of the US taking a position.
“We don’t take positions. So no, it wouldn’t be a reflection of that. It is just a reflection, as I’ve stated a few times, of us reaching out to a range of individuals from different backgrounds, different political affiliations, which we do in countries around the world,” she had said.
In the last few years several European allies have met Modi.