The US has taken the first step to open its channels of communications with a leader it had so far refused to engage with, at least openly. Upasna Pandey reports.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's diplomatic isolation is finally set to end on Thursday as the Americans come calling in Gandhinagar.
While US diplomats are looking to open channels of communication with the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate, everyone seems to be on wait-and-watch mode, looking for the first smoke signals from the meeting between Modi and US Ambassador J Nancy Powell.
The Barack Obama administration has sought to describe the Modi-Powell meeting as part of a 'concerted outreach to senior political and business leaders which began in November to highlight the US-India relationship.'
While the Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2015 is stated to be on the agenda, the context of this meeting would be the Lok Sabha election.
Sources in the BJP say this meeting has been pending for over six weeks when the US first approached Modi's office with a request; but the meeting had to be delayed as India and Washington were entangled in a diplomatic face-off over diplomat Devyani Khobragade's arrest in New York.
Ending a decade-long diplomatic boycott on Modi, the US has finally taken a "welcome step in the right direction," says Vijay Jolly, who heads the BJP's overseas affairs department.
"Der aye, durust aye> (better late than never)", Jolly adds.
The development comes in wake of the United Kingdom ending Modi's boycott with British High Commissioner James Bevan meeting the BJP leader last year.
Former Indian ambassador to the US Lalit Mansingh believes the meeting should be seen more in the context of US "economic diplomacy."
"The motivation of this meeting can be the need for the US to strengthen business relations with India as well as the fact that there has not been any indictment of the Gujarat chief minister in cases related to the 2002 riots," Mansingh said.
Others like another former ambassador to the US Naresh Chandra believe the US State Department found itself in an uncomfortable position after several members of the European Union opened up lines of communication with Modi.
"We cannot ignore the fact that it has taken about 12 years for the US to review its stance which is a fairly long time. Their position may have become simply untenable now in view of multiple reasons," Chandra felt.
BJP leaders believe the influential Gujarati Diaspora in the US and their consistent efforts to connect Modi with the American political establishment played a key role in effecting the change in the US position.
"The US government is guided by the ground reality in India and also by the fact that Modi enjoys high popularity among the Indian community in the US," says Jolly, "more so from people who have their roots in Gujarat.";
Chandrakant Patel, president, Overseas Friends of BJP (USA), says, "We have waited a long time for this. We believe it would be good for the long-term future of India-US relations. It is good the Obama administration has finally realised that Modi is one of the most powerful Indian leaders."
Image: Narendra Modi, left, Nancy Powell, right.