A warm handshake, a bouquet of red and yellow roses, frantic clicking of cameras and the US on Thursday ended a nine-year boycott of BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi over the 2002 Gujarat riots.
US ambassador to India Nancy Powell held a 30-minute meeting with the Gujarat chief minister at his official residence in the state capital Gandhinagar — first high-profile contact between the two sides after 2005 when Washington revoked Modi’s visa.
HT was first to report that the US was ready to reengage with the Gujarat CM and Powell had sought an appointment with him.
On Thursday, the two held a wide-ranging discussion in which Modi not only talked about various initiatives of his government and terrorism but also bilateral ties and Afghanistan -– a signal he was looking beyond the western state and preparing for a larger role.
“The United States looks forward to working closely with the government that the Indian people choose in the upcoming elections,” a US embassy statement said, adding Powell also discussed human rights issues with Modi and others.
Asked about what rights issues were discussed, diplomatic sources said, “These were spoken about in a general sense, nothing specific was considered”.
Read HT Blog: Unites States of Modi
Washington was part of a larger boycott of Modi by most Western governments. Many countries, however, reached out to him much earlier.
Raising with Powell the incident involving Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade who was arrested and strip-searched in New York on charges of visa fraud, Modi said India-US ties, which were mutually beneficial, would be better served without such “irritants”.
“The United States and India are moving forward with a strategic partnership that is broad and deep,” the embassy said.
Crediting former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee with laying a “strong foundation” for the India-US strategic partnership, Modi reassured Powell of BJP’s commitment to the bilateral ties.
Calling for justice for the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, Modi told Powell that there should be a single yardstick to address terrorism.
Shift in power balance led US to reach out to Modi
Afghanistan, which will see US withdraw its troops this yearend, was also discussed. The CM said some of Gujarat’s economic models such as the milk cooperatives could help the people in the war-ravaged country.
Powell “expressed keenness to take best practices of governance from Gujarat to be incubated and implemented in developing countries”, a state government statement said.
The US boycott of Modi was not based on any evidence or court verdict but on excessive propaganda, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said. “For us in the BJP, the meeting is a part of the diplomatic routine,” he said in his blog.