Ending a nine-year-long boycott after the 2002 Gujarat riots, the United States opened a channel of communication with Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi on Thursday, when America’s envoy Nancy Powell met the Gujarat strongman.
While the agenda of the meeting was kept under wraps, the US has said it is part of an increased engagement with Indian leaders across the political spectrum.
The US had shunned Modi after the post-Godhra riots and refused to issue a visa to him since 2005.
In an absolute U-turn, the US signalled the end of its boycott of Modi by seeking a meeting between Powell and him.
An envoy-level officer travelled to Gandhinagar for the first time in the last 13 years to meet Modi, who greeted the delegation with flowers and a hand shake, at his residence.
The US has already scotched speculation that the Modi-Powell meeting would lead to lifting of the visa ban on the BJP leader, insisting there was no change in its policy.
A consular level officer of Mumbai consulate had met Modi after his visa was revoked.
Later, when his stature grew in Indian politics, the Gujarat CM had refused to meet junior officials of the US Embassy.
But business delegations from the US were always welcomed by the state administration; they had even participated in bi-annual business events like 'Vibrant Gujarat'.
Due to the travel ban, Modi has so far reached out to the Indian Diaspora in the US via video-conferencing.
Powell will also meet Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Assembly Shankrsinh Vaghela at his residence in Gandhinagar.
Washington has made it clear that it was not taking any position on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
"We don't take positions. So no, it wouldn't be a reflection of that. It is just a reflection, as I have stated a few times, of us reaching out to a range of individuals from different backgrounds, different political affiliations, which we do in countries around the world," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki had said.
Image: A protest against the visa ban on Narendra Modi near Wharton University, Pennsylvania, United States