Gandhinagar, Feb 13: US Ambassador Nancy Powell Thursday met Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is BJP prime ministerial nominee, in the state capital here and discussed US-India ties.
The meeting between the US envoy and Modi, widely regarded as a strong contender for the prime minister’s post, marks a change in stance of the US which had denied the Bharatiya Janata Party leader a visa in 2005 over the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Powell was presented a bouquet of roses by Modi after which she and her aides held a meeting with Modi.
The US embassy in New Delhi said in a statement that the meeting “was part of the US Mission’s outreach to senior leaders of India’s major political parties in advance of the upcoming national elections”.
The discussions during the hour-long meeting focussed on the importance of the US-India relationship, regional security issues, human rights, and American trade and investment in India, the statement 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.
The meeting was facilitated by the external affairs ministry, which had received a request to arrange for the meeting some time ago.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said earlier that the US embassy requested for the meeting “quite some time ago” with Modi and the ministry had facilitated it.
The US revoked Modi’s visa in 2005 under a law barring entry of foreign officials seen as responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom”. He has not applied for a US visa since then.
Since Modi’s emergence as a national leader, the US business lobby has reached out to him. Three Republican lawmakers accompanied a US business delegation that met him in Ahmedabad last year. A senior US diplomat also attended that meeting.
On the issue of granting Modi a visa, the State Department has said that the BJP leader was “welcome to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant”.
The US has indicated it is ready to do business with any government that emerges from India’s upcoming election.
The US and India have forged friendly ties with bilateral trade close to $100 billion.
Among Western envoys who have met Modi are German Ambassador Michael Steiner and British High Commissioner James Bevan. The European Union was the first to end the boycott of Modi.