NEW DELHI — The US government’s envoy in India ended a nine-year diplomatic standoff Thursday by meeting with Narendra Modi, a controversial Hindu politician who could be India’s next prime minister if his party wins in the national election this year.
Washington had kept Modi at arm’s length, declining to give him a visa to visit the United States because of his alleged role in fanning religious riots in 2002. But Modi’s rising domestic popularity in the run-up to national elections appears to have forced a thaw his relations with the United States.
The hourlong meeting between Ambassador Nancy Powell and Modi, the business-friendly chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, made headlines in India. Many hailed it as a key stamp of approval for one of India’s most polarizing politicians.
The Times of India on Wednesday called it the end of the ‘‘9-year cold war.’’ A statement from the US Embassy said the meeting was part of Powell’s ‘‘outreach to senior leaders of India’s major political parties in advance of the upcoming national elections.’’