Washington: The US today sought to play down Thursday's meeting of Ambassador Nancy Powell with Narendra Modi, saying it is part of increased engagement with Indian leaders and indicated that President Barack Obama may not have been involved in the decision to end the BJP leader's boycott.
The State Department also scotched speculation about tomorrow's meeting leading to the US lifting a nine-year long visa ban on Modi in the wake of the 2002 Gujarat riots, insisting that there was no change in its visa policy.
Washington also made it clear that it was not taking any position on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Justifying Powell's meeting with Modi, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said all relevant people required to take a decision were involved in the process. However, the official did not confirm if President Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry were involved in it.
US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell. Pic-AFP
"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," Psaki told reporters.
"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.
Powell is expected to travel to Gandhinagar to meet Modi tomorrow, the first by the top US diplomat after the post-Godhra riots. In the last few years several European allies have met Modi.
"We do broad outreach with 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.
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...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. She said it was certainly not a reflection of anything changing regarding America's longstanding and strong advocacy for human rights around the world.