US ambassador Nancy Powell to meet Narendra Modi

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Manju Shukla
Date  11/02/2014
The US ambassador to India Nancy Powell is likely to meet Bharatiya Janata Party`s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, signaling a change of policy towards the Gujarat chief minister after years of shunning him over the 2002 riots.

According to a Zee News report, the meeting is expected to take place in Ahmedabad. A state department official was quoted by Zee News as saying, "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."

TV reports say the meeting may be held on February 14 or 15, during which bilateral relations between India and the US will be discussed. It is not yet clear whether the issue of visa will be discussed.

The Gujarat chief minister was denied a diplomatic visa to the US in 2005 over the riots. However, in September last year, the US had said there was no change in its policy but added the leader could still apply for a visa like any other applicant.

Modi has not applied for a US visa since 2005 when he was denied a diplomatic visa for his alleged inaction in controlling the 2002 Godhra riots. In addition, the B-1/B-2 visa that had previously been granted to him was also revoked.

The action was taken 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.

However, with the recent victory of the BJP in assembly elections in four Indian states, a controversial resolution critical of the party`s prime ministerial candidate Modi is losing traction in the US Congress.

The US business too has been warming up to the Gujarat leader and the issue is being debated both in the administration and among the lawmakers.

If the meeting takes place, it would mark the end of US boycott of Modi which had stemmed over allegations of him `abetting` the heinous riots in 2002 in Gujarat

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