Following in the footsteps of Britain and the EU, the United States is set to end its boycott of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, with its envoy to India, Nancy Powell, due to meet him this week.
Washington had decided to reach out to the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in January and the US embassy’s request was approved and facilitated by the external affairs ministry, sources said.
The US move marks a complete shift from its stance of having nothing to do with Modi, whose visa it cancelled in 2005 under a domestic law on the issue of “severe violations of religious freedom” and had refused to review its policy.
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Powell wants to discuss with Modi issues related to the Lok Sabha polls and his vision for the country, sources said.
Before Powell’s request, US embassy officials met senior Gujarat officials and are believed to have discussed the 2002 riots, among others. That meeting apparently set the stage for Powell meeting Modi.
“This is part of our concerted outreach to senior political and business leaders which began in November to highlight the US-India relationship,” US embassy spokesperson Peter Vrooman said in comments that were identical to the State Department’s in Washington.
An official in the Chief Minister’s Office in Gandhinagar said the visa controversy “is not likely to be discussed by the CM just at the time of ice-breaking”. Modi is likely to focus on strengthening business ties, especially through the flagship event of Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor Summit 2015, the official said. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid reacted sharply to the announcement.
“I would be interested in knowing what Powell tells Modi. In the past, we have been lectured by countries on human rights. What the US makes of what happened in Gujarat and what will they say to him will be interesting to know,” he said.