US Ambassador Nancy Powell met Gujarat Chief Minister and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi Thursday and discussed a range of subjects, signalling the end of a nine-year boycott of Modi by Washington following the 2002 riots.
During their one-hour meeting in Gandhinagar, the two touched upon the alleged ill-treatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade and bringing the perpetrators of 26/11 to justice, among others. But the US visa ban on Modi was not discussed, officials said.
The meeting was significant not because of what the two talked about but because of just the fact it took place.
Powell is the highest-ranking US official to meet Modi since Washington denied him a diplomatic visa in 2005 and revoked his personal visa following the communal riots.
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Powell, accompanied by the US Consul General in Mumbai, Peter Haas, met Modi and top Gujarat government officials at his official residence in Gandhinagar.
A Gujarat government statement said Modi expressed concern over “the recent ill-treatment of an Indian lady diplomat in New York” to which Powell reassured that the “US government was fully committed to resolving this issue at the earliest possible”.
Modi told Powell that “such irritants should not be allowed to happen” to strengthen the India-US strategic partnership and help it realise its full potential. Modi also reiterated the BJP’s commitment to further the US-India strategic partnership initiated when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was prime minister.
Modi also discussed Gujarat’s involvement in training Afghan officials as well as rural Afghan women for self-employment and suggested replicating Gujarat’s dairy industry to push its rural economy.
The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), which Powell visited, has been training Afghan women to rehabilitate themselves.
Referring to 26/11, Modi said there was a need for a “single global yardstick on terrorism” and the need to “isolate terrorist groups irrespective of their base or victims”.
A US consulate statement described the meeting as “part of the US mission’s outreach to senior leaders of India’s major political parties in advance of the upcoming national elections”.
Powell also met opposition leader Shankersinh Vaghela, Gujarat Congress chief Arjun Modhwadia and Congress leader Siddharth Patel.
“She had questions on the human rights situation in Gujarat and also wanted to know the probable scenario in the event of a BJP-led NDA government or a Congress-led UPA government in the upcoming elections,” Vaghela said after the meeting.
Vaghela said he told her about the fake encounter cases and how Gujarat police officers were jailed for them. “We told them how Gujarat is lagging behind in terms of the human rights index, health and other parameters,” he said.