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The meeting between US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell and Narendra Modi was a "pragmatic" and "necessary step", according to a media report, that said it seems "likely" the visa status of Bharatiya Janata party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate "could change" if he is elected to the top post.
In an editorial titled 'More Engagement With India', the New York Times said: "The decision by the United States to have its ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, meet Narendra Modi, a star of the country's Bharatiya Janata Party, reversed a long estrangement."
"It was a pragmatic step in engaging with India and the controversial and troubling politician who could well become the next prime minister after elections in May," the editorial board of the leading US daily said.
It added that regardless of who succeeds Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the general elections this year, the "United States and India have a lot of work to do to strengthen their partnership. Opening a door to a relationship with Modi is a necessary step".
The meeting with Powell was part of a renewed American effort to reach out to politicians across India's political spectrum.
"Such moves are long overdue," it said.
"The Obama administration this week said the visa status remains the same, but it seems likely that could change, especially if Modi becomes prime minister," the editorial said.
The editorial termed as "a serious oversight" President Barack Obama not paying as much attention to India as President George Bush, given India's central role as a democratic anchor in South Asia and its developing relationship with Japan.
Following the "pathbreaking" nuclear energy agreement between US and India in 2008, the two nations have worked to develop closer commercial and strategic ties and now share almost USD 100 billion in annual trade.
"But the relationship is under serious strains, including a trade dispute over solar panels and a row over a diplomat who was charged with visa fraud and illegally underpaying her maid and left the United States in January," it said.
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"It is in no one's interest to let these tensions fester. India and the United States have much to cooperate on, including Obama's efforts to strengthen America's role in Asia and work with partners there to balance China's rise and more assertive stance in the region without provoking conflict.
"In addition, India, like the United States, is deeply worried