US defends its decision for Powell to meet Modi

Tags: Modi, Powell, US, News
The US has defended its decision for ambassador to India Nancy Powell to meet BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, arguing that this is part of its effort of increased engagement with Indian leaders.

A day after the US State Department confirmed that Powell would meet Modi in Gandhinagar later this week, its spokesperson told reporters yesterday that all relevant people required to take a decision were involved in the process, which basically overturned the nine-year-old US policy of non-engagement with Modi.

However, the official did not confirm if US Secretary of State John Kerry or US President Barack Obama were involved in it.

"These decisions don't always rise up to every highest level. But certainly, all relevant individuals who needed to weigh in weighed in, and agreed that it was certainly an appropriate meeting to have," State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference.

"We are often engaged in concentrated outreach to senior political and business leaders. We began doing that months ago, if not years ago - in different scales, of course - to highlight and continue our US-India relationship. There has been no changes in our policy per se. This is an effort in that engagement," Psaki said.

"I can certainly confirm the appointments or the meeting upcoming," she added.

Powell is expected to travel to Gandhinagar to meet Modi later this week, the first by the top US diplomat after the Gujarat riots. In the last few years several European allies have met Modi.

"We do broad outreach to a range of officials in India and many countries around the world with different backgrounds. And it's simply just an example of that," she said.

"We meet with officials from a range of backgrounds in many, many countries, including India, and it's simply an example of that," she argued.

Reiterating that the US does not take positions in elections of any country, Psaki argued that Powell meeting Modi is not an example of the US taking a position.

"We don't take positions. So no, it wouldn't be a reflection of that. It is just a reflection, as I've stated a few times, of us reaching out to a range of individuals from different backgrounds, different political affiliations, which we do in countries around the world," she said.

Psaki said there is no change in the US visa policy.

"When individuals apply for a visa, their applications are reviewed in accordance with US law and policy. This is not a reflection of any change. We don't speak to that. This is simply a meeting happening on the ground in India. It's not a reflection of anything else than outreach to a broad range of officials," she said.

Responding to questions, Psaki refuted the allegations that this decision of the Administration is influenced by the lobbying efforts of some pro-Modi group and business community in the US.

"This is simply a meeting that we're going to be having that the Ambassador is going to be having on the ground. Nothing has changed about our visa policy. We don't speak to that, given it's private," she said.

"So this is not a reflection of that changing, and certainly not a reflection of anything changing regarding our longstanding and strong advocacy for human rights around the world," the spokesperson said.

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