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US Ambassador to Meet Indian Opposition Leader Modi

  • VOA News

FILE - U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell, speaks during inauguration of the American Business Corner (ABC) in Gauhati, India.

FILE - U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell, speaks during inauguration of the American Business Corner (ABC) in Gauhati, India.

The United States announced its ambassador to India will meet opposition leader Narendra Modi, who could become New Delhi's next prime minister.

The planned meeting, confirmed by the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, represents a change of posture toward the Hindu nationalist.

Washington imposed a visa ban on Modi following criticism of his handling of anti-Muslim riots in 2002 in Gujarat state, where he is chief minister. The violence left more than 1,000 people dead.

A U.S. embassy spokesman said Modi's meeting with Ambassador Nancy Powell is part of a "concentrated outreach to senior political and business leaders" to highlight the U.S.-India relationship.

Modi could become prime minister if his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) performs well in the upcoming parliamentary elections, as recent polls suggest.

The Congress party of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is lagging well behind the opposition BLP in opinion polls, with voters turned off by an economic slowdown and a string of corruption scandals.

The 81-year-old Singh, who is retiring after two terms, has said it would be "disastrous" if Modi became prime minister.

Modi denies wrongdoing in the anti-Muslim riots, which are believed to have been sparked when Muslims set fire to a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. Late last year, an Indian court ruled there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.

Supporters claim that since the violence, Modi's record of steady governance, development and growth has won over voters, including Muslims, across Gujarat's 60 million people.

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