Published On: Tue, Feb 11th, 2014

US Envoy Set To Meet Narendra Modi

US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell is to meet controversial Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi soon, a US State Department spokesman has said.Narendra Modi

This is seen as a significant shift in the US stance towards Mr Modi, the main opposition party’s candidate for prime minister.

Mr Modi has been criticised for his handling of Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002.

Riots erupted after 60 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire which Muslims were blamed for igniting.

Many Western governments broke off contact with Mr Modi’s government after the riots. The US continues to refuse Mr Modi permission to enter the country.

Correspondents say the planned meeting this week is an attempt by the US to build bridges with Mr Modi, whose Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is widely expected to win the upcoming general elections.

“We can confirm the appointment [between Mr Modi and Ms Powell],” a State Department spokesperson told the Press Trust of India news agency, adding that Ms Powell had made the request.

“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 did not comment on the possible date of the meeting, which is expected to take place this week in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad city.

Under Mr Modi’s leadership, Gujarat has been turned into one of India’s economic powerhouses.

But Mr Modi has also been seen as a divisive figure and accused of not doing enough to stop the riots.

He has always denied any wrongdoing in connection with the 2002 violence, but has not expressed remorse or offered an apology.

A 2008 state inquiry exonerated him over the riots but one of his close aides, Maya Kodnani, was jailed for 28 years in August.