Ahmedabad: After Europe embraced him, the United States of America seems to have also come around to appreciate Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s style of governance. A US Congress delegation on Thursday invited Modi to visit their country – signalling the end of Washington’s long standing aversion to the man who is being dubbed as one of the most serious contender to be Prime Minister of India in 2014.
The 18-member delegation, led by Republican Congressmen from Illinois, Aaron Schock, met Modi at his official residence today afternoon, following their visit to Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram and held over an hour-long closed-door meeting with him and high ranking state officials.
"We are grateful to Chief Minister Narendra Modi. We learnt about the development. It is much easier to do business in Gujarat. Modi is very dynamic person. We have extended an invitation to the Chief Minister to visit USA and share his ideas with us," Schock was quoted as saying after the meeting.
However, Schock gave no assurance on a visa for Modi but said the members along with other Republican lawmakers will work with the US administration towards this end. It was the highest-level US delegation to meet Modi since the riots.
Members of the delegation said they were "impressed" with Modi`s efforts to transform the state`s economy. Modi had been denied visa by the US since 2005 due to allegations of mishandling of the post-Godhra riots against his government.
Apart from Schock, Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming) and Cathy M Rodgers (Washington) were the other two Republican Congress members in the delegation.
Asked if this invitation meant that the US State Department had changed its stand over the issue of visa to Modi, Schock said "obviously it is a matter of the United States administration but we, along with other Republican lawmakers, will work in that direction with the US administration."
"We have invited him to the US to show us some of what he has done here in the state. We were impressed with what we have seen here, especially with his statement of `minimum government, maximum governance`. And as a Congressman of the Republican Party, I also believe in limited government."
Modi`s office, however, remained silent on the issue of invitation to visit the US in its press release.
Modi said he was thankful to the members of US Congress and business persons for their kind words on Gujarat`s development.
Following the post-Godhra riots in 2002, the Unites States in 2005 had denied diplomatic visa to Modi and also revoked his already granted B-1/B-2 visa, under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act which makes any foreign government official who was responsible or "directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom" ineligible for the visa.
The change in US’ position comes shortly after the United Kingdom - which had also refused to deal with Narendra Modi - changed this policy in October 2012. Similarly, the European Union has also ended over a decade-old boycott of Modi in 2012 by ‘delinking’ his image from any human rights issues.
The US Congress and business delegations has been trip organised in conjunction with the National Indian American Public Policy Institute will also feature meetings with Indian government officials, MPs and business leaders.
While welcoming the US delegation, Modi spoke about the fast and inclusive, environment-friendly process of development in Gujarat, an official statement issued here said. "With hard work, we have been able to create an impact in the country," Modi said.
In his address to the delegation, Modi urged the need for humanitarian forces coming together and fight terrorism along with other challenges of poverty and unemployment.
Emphasising the need to strengthen the democratic processes keeping in mind the larger good of people, Modi also talked about ideas and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.
"Mahatma Gandhi has been and is the biggest light-house in this journey and Gujarat being the land of Gandhi believes in these principles. It has been in the forefront in nurturing such ideals and leading its people on the path of growth," he told the delegation as per the official statement.
Following the meeting, the delegation visited the Akshardham temple, a popular Swaminarayan temple here.
During their two day stay in Gujarat, the US delegation is also planning to visit Tata Nano manufacturing plant in Sanand, Ahmedabad and Gujarat International Finance Tec-city (GIFT).
In addition to Gujarat, the visiting delegation will visit Bangalore, Tirupati, New Delhi, Agra, Udaipur, Jaipur and Amritsar. The delegation will meet the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, senior BJP leader L K Advani and BJP president Rajnath Singh.
With PTI inputs