U.S. ends freeze, reaches out to Modi

In this photo released by the Gujarat government, U.S. Ambassador to India, Nancy Powell receives flowers presented to her by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, as she visits him at his residence in Gandhinagar on Thursday.  

Washington on Thursday ended its nine-year hands-off policy on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi when U.S. Ambassador Nancy J. Powell met him in Gandhinagar.

“This meeting was part of the U.S. Mission’s outreach to senior leaders of India’s major political parties in advance of the upcoming national elections,” said a U.S. Embassy news release immediately after the envoy met Mr. Modi.

Official sources said Ms. Powell praised the “good model” of governance in Gujarat, which she felt could be taken to other parts of the world.

They said the U.S. envoy told Mr. Modi that there was an “excellent investment climate” in Gujarat, which she was visiting after 20 years.

Ms. Powell was quoted as saying that she was highly impressed with the progress the State had made over the past two decades.

The sources said Mr. Modi raised the issue of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade and was assured by her that the U.S. was committed to speedy resolution of the matter.

In 2005, the U.S. government not only refused Mr. Modi a diplomatic visa but also cancelled his existing visa under the rarely applied Immigration and Nationality Act.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) here did not see anything amiss in a foreign diplomat requesting them to facilitate a meeting with elected functionaries of a State government.

Though it was his Ministry that facilitated the meeting, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said, “We will not preach to the U.S. about its perception of the Holocaust. They will not preach to us about our perception on 2002 in Gujarat. But we make our assessments, and they make theirs.”

Reacting to the Powell-Modi meeting, Mr. Khurshid said: “Did we celebrate that he did not get a visa? Are we going to be depressed that he got the visa?”

The U.S. Embassy made no mention of the visa issue as being among the topics of discussions between the envoy and Mr. Modi.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley said, “The earlier decision of some countries not to deal with Mr. Modi was a failure of India’s foreign policy.”

Pro-Hindu NRI groups in the U.S. said they did not play any role in the meeting. Speaking to The Hindu Satish Misra of the Overseas Friends of the BJP said it was likely that the “towering personality of Mr. Modi in Indian politics” may have convinced reverse its decision.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 6:18:19 AM |

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