A visiting U.S. congressional delegation invited the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, to the United States, despite the fact that Washington has denied him a visa since 2005 because of deadly religious riots. (Gujarat Information Department/AFP/Getty Images)

Members of Congress from Illinois, Wyoming and Washington state visited the controversial chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, on Thursday, in the first high-level American visit to the state in more than eight years.

The U.S. government has not granted Modi a visa because of allegations by international human rights groups that he looked the other way while Hindu mobs went on a rampage in 2002, killing more than 1,000 Muslims.

But Modi’s business-friendly policies have attracted many foreign investors to Gujarat, including U.S. companies such as General Motors and Ford. And now, as the state leader’s rising domestic popularity appears set to catapult him into a larger national role in his Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the 2014 elections, his diplomatic isolation in the West is also ebbing.

“We were impressed with what we have seen . . . and we extended an invitation to the chief minister to come to United States and share with our colleagues some of what he has done here in the state,” Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.), who led a delegation of U.S. lawmakers and business leaders, told reporters in Gujarat.

Members of the delegation said they plan to ask the U.S. government to grant Modi a visa, according to media reports.

The Americans will be in India until April 7 and will meet with several officials, lawmakers and business people. The meeting with Modi was their first in India.

In November, Britain was the first Western nation to reengage with Modi. Several European Union nations followed, hosting a lunch for him in New Delhi.