Zee Media Bureau/Ajith Vijay Kumar
Gandhinagar: US Ambassador Nancy Powell held discussions with BJP`s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Thursday, signalling a thaw in Washington`s 9-year-old boycott of him over the Gujarat riots. Reports claimed that Powell praised the `good model` of governance in the state and said that it could be replicated in other parts of the world.
Earlier, Modi greeted Powell with flowers and a hand shake when she arrived at Chief Minister`s residence here for the meeting. Modi also welcomed other members of the US delegation.
It is the first high profile meeting between Modi and a US official since the US State Department revoked his visa in 2005 on grounds of “severe violations of religious freedom” in Gujarat.
The US Embassy said Nancy Powell`s meeting with Narendra Modi was part of US Mission`s outreach to senior leaders of Indian politics.
“Her discussions focus on importance of US-India relations,regional security,human rights,American trade&investment,” the Embassy said.
Powell "has shared and listened to views on the US-India relationship" and she "continues to emphasize that the partnership is important and strategic, and that the United States looks forward to working closely with the government that the Indian people choose in the upcoming elections", the statement added.
New agency PTI quoted official sources as saying that Powell praised the "good model" of governance in Gujarat which she felt could be taken to other parts of the world.
They said the US envoy told Modi that there was an "excellent investment climate" in Gujarat which she was visiting after 20 years.
Powell was quoted as saying that she was highly impressed with the progress the state has made over the last two decades.
The sources said Modi raised the issue of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade and was assured by her that the US was committed to speedy resolution of the matter.
However, the visa issue was not part of the agenda. For the record, the US has said that there is no change in its visa policy and Narendra Modi is free to apply again.
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But the BJP has indicated that Modi is no hurry to apply for a US visa. The US can also breathe easy, for now, as revoking of the ban at this juncture would have had exposed it to risk of being accused of adding Modi ahead of the polls.
What has forced US to shake hands with Modi is the growing possibility of him taking over as the next prime minister of the country.
Over the years, the US and India have forged closer ties on a number of issues and are now `strategic partners` with bilateral trade standing close to $100 billion.
Clearly, the US does not want to be wrong side of the fence if the BJP rides comes power.
Also, the US was getting increasingly isolated over its continued ban on Modi, especially after its allies in Europe embraced him.
Among western envoys who have met Modi are German Ambassador Michael Steiner and British High Commissioner James Bevan and the European Union was the first to end the boycott of Modi.
A BJP leader said, “America had no other option but to approach Narendra Modi in a friendly manner, that was the demand of democracy.”
Powell will also meet Leader of Opposition in state Assembly Shankrsinh Vaghela, at his residence in Gandhinagar.
She is also scheduled to visit NGO Seva outlet and Pandit Deendayal Upadhayay Petroleum University later in the day.
The Congress refused to get drawn in to a debate on Powell-Modi meet.
“I am not the Visa Officer of the USA, its really for them to decide whatever and not for us to discuss,” Salman Khurshid, External Affairs Minister, said.
“Any Ambassador can meet any CM after clearance from MEA, we don`t have anything to say on it,” Rajiv Shukla, senior Congress leader, said.