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US signals end of Modi boycott; Powell to meet him on Thursday

New Delhi/Washington, Feb 11 (PTI): The US ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, will be meeting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar on Thursday, signalling the end of a nine-year-long boycott following the Godhra riots.

In 2005, the US had cancelled Modi’s visa under a domestic law on the issue of “severe violations of religious freedom”. Ever since it had refused to review its policy.

Powell apparently wants to meet Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, issues related to the Lok Sabha polls and his vision for the country, sources said.

They said the Ambassador's request for a meeting has been accepted by Modi and exact time and date are being firmed up.

“Most likely, the meeting will take place on Thursday February 13,” a source said.

Before Powell's formal request, the US Embassy officials recently held a meeting with some senior officials of Gujarat government, during which they may have discussed the 2002 riots, among other subjects.

That interaction apparently set the stage for the meeting between Powell and 63-year-old Modi.

In Washington, a US State Department spokesman told PTI, ”We can confirm the appointment (between Modi and Powell).”

”This is part of our concerted outreach to senior political and business leaders which began in November to highlight the US-India relationship,” the spokesperson said.

The go-ahead, just before the announcement of general elections in a few weeks from now, seems to have been taken after intensive debate within the various wings of the Obama Administration -- the White House and the State Department in particular -- with crucial inputs from the members of the Congress, and the influential leaders of the corporate sector, the US India Business Council in particular.

In the past few weeks, a series of public meetings organised by influential think tanks here have had concluded that the BJP-led by Modi was currently headed to win the upcoming general elections and the US needs to review its policy to do business with him.


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