US Ambassador Nancy Powell met Chief Minister Narendra Modi at his official residence here for a good 45 minutes along with Consul General Peter Haas and other top Gujarat government officials, signalling the end of the US boycott of Modi since 2005.
The US government had denied Modi a diplomatic visa and revoked his personal visa because of the sectarian violence of 2002 that claimed nearly 2000 lives.
Powell is the highest US official to have met Modi since the visa ban of 2005, though the issue did not come up for discussion in their talks, said sources. Modi welcomed her with a bunch of red and yellow roses, as the diplomat began her two-day Gujarat visit.
The US consulate in an official release, however, described the meeting as "part of the U.S. Mission’s outreach to senior leaders of India’s major political parties in advance of the upcoming national elections".
From Modi's house, Powell proceeded for a breakfast meeting to leader of opposition Shankersinh Vaghela's home in Gandhinagar, where she also spent some 40 minutes.
Vaghela told media after the meeting, "She had questions on the human rights situation in Gujarat and also wanted to know the probable scenario in the event of a BJP-led NDA government and a Congress-led UPA government in the upcoming elections". Vaghela also told her about the fake encounter cases and how Gujarat police officers were jailed for them.
Powell will also visit the Adalaj stepwell, a unique piece of heritage architecture for water conservation, here in Gandhinagar. On her itinerary are a visit to the Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) office in Navrangpura area of Ahmedabad and the Mount Carmel school.
The consulate release said that Powell will also meet with US and Indian businesses. "Her discussions focus on the importance of the US-India relationship, regional security issues, human rights, and American trade and investment in India", said the release.
"The United States and India are moving forward with a strategic partnership that is broad and deep. Starting last November, Ambassador Powell has shared and listened to views on the U.S.-India relationship. She continues to emphasize that the U.S.-India partnership is important and strategic, and that the United States looks forward to working closely with the government that the Indian people choose in the upcoming elections," the release said.