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US envoy holds talks with India’s Modi Move marks end of boycott of opposition leader

GANDHINAGAR, India, Feb 13, (AFP): The United States Thursday ended a decade-long boycott of Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi over deadly religious riots, as its envoy held talks with the man tipped to be next prime minister. Nancy Powell, the US ambassador to India, shook hands with Modi who presented her with a bouquet at his official residence in the western state of Gujarat where he is chief minister, before closed-door talks. The pair held “comprehensive and wide-ranging discussions” in the state capital Gandhinagar including on economic development, “terrorist groups”, India’s assistance in Afghanistan and health, Modi’s office said.

Modi also raised a recent row over the “ill-treatment” of a New York-based Indian diplomat, whose arrest and strip search sparked fury in India. The chief minister said that “such irritants” should not happen if the Indo-US relationship were to realise its full potential, according to a statement from his office. The United States in 2005 refused Modi a visa under a domestic law that bars entry to any foreign official seen as responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom”. Powell’s meeting brings the US in line with European nations and Australia, which have already restored ties with Modi, as opinion polls show him on course to win power at general elections in May.

Powell did not speak to reporters after the almost hour-long meeting. “This meeting was part of the US mission’s outreach to senior leaders of India’s major political parties in advance of the upcoming national elections,” the US embassy said in a statement. If elected premier, Modi would be highly unlikely to experience problems with travel to the US, which generally allows visits by leaders of friendly countries. Modi has sought to portray himself as a business- savvy leader who can revive India’s economy and tackle corruption after a decade of rule by the left-leaning Congress party

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