New Delhi/Washington, Feb 11: US Ambassador Nancy Powell has sought a meeting with Narendra Modi which is expected to take place on Thursday in Gandhinagar, signalling an end to America’s boycott of the BJP leader after nearly nine years.

Powell apparently wants to discuss with the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate issues related to the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and his vision for the country, sources said.

They said the Ambassador’s request for 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.

The development marks a major shift in US stand towards Modi as it has so far refused to have any contact with him because of the 2002 Gujarat riots. The US has also continuously refused to give visa to him since 2005. Before Powell’s formal request, the US Embassy officials recently held a meeting with some senior officials of Gujarat government, during which the 2002 riots issue is believed to have been discussed 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. Modi, who was named last year as the prime ministerial candidate of the opposition BJP, often faces questions over the post-Godhra riots that claimed over 1,200 lives.

In 2005, Modi was denied a diplomatic visa by the US and his existing tourist and business visa was revoked under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which makes a foreign government official responsible for severe violations of religious freedom ineligible for a travel document.

Powell’s meeting with Modi would put the US in line with some European nations and Australia, which have already ended his boycott.
The US ambassador’s proposed meeting comes months after UK’s High Commissioner James Bevan met Modi, ending a decade long boycott of the BJP leader by Britain.

The UK and other Western governments suspended ties with Modi after the 2002 riots. A group of European Ambassadors have also had interaction with Modi in recent months. The Overseas Friends of BJP-US president Chandrakant Patel welcomed the decision taken by the Obama Administration in this regard.

“We highly appreciate the decision taken by US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. This would further help in strengthening of Indo-US relationship,” Patel said. “Modi is the most popular leader of the country right now. Given that he has been given clean chit by all the courts in India, it was not fair on the part of the US to not to have relationship with Modi,” Patel said. PTI