M A I N   N E W S

USA denies visa to Modi
MEA lodges protest, but gets no assurance from US envoy
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 18
The USA has denied diplomatic visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and revoked his existing business visa, a development which brought the UPA government and the BJP on a common platform as New Delhi today lodged a strong protest with the US Head of Mission here, Mr Robert Blake.

Mr Blake was called to the Foreign Office for a 30-minute meeting with Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran. Mr Blake explained in great detail why the State Department denied Mr Modi’s diplomatic visa and revoked his existing business visa.

Mr Saran conveyed the government’s desire that Washington should urgently reconsider the decision, but no assurance was forthcoming from the American envoy, diplomatic sources said. All that Mr Blake told Mr Saran was that he would convey the Government of India’s views on the issue to the State Department.

BJP leader and former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha spoke to External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh in the morning and told the Minister that it was not an insult to Mr Modi but to the nation as Mr Modi was the elected Chief Minister of a state of the Indian Union.

Later in the evening, MEA spokesperson Navtej Sarna issued a strongly-worded reaction as follows: “The Government of India expresses its deep concern and regret that the Embassy of the United States of America has denied a visa to Mr Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, to visit the US for an event organised by the Asian-American Hotel Owners’ Association. The visa had been requested by the Ministry of External Affairs through a Note Verbale to the Embassy on 28th February 2005.

“This action on the part of the U.S. Embassy is uncalled for and displays lack of courtesy and sensitivity towards a constitutionally elected Chief Minister of a State of India.

“The Ministry of External Affairs has called the Head of Mission of the Embassy to the Ministry to lodge a strong protest against the denial of visa to Mr Narendra Modi and to request an urgent reconsideration.”

An American diplomat here told “The Tribune” that Mr Modi had applied for a diplomatic visa this year. This application was rejected under Section 214 (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act as Mr Modi was found “not qualified” for a diplomatic visa.

Mr Modi’s existing business visa was revoked by the State Department under Section 212 A 2G of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The relevant US law is reporduced below:

“Foreign government officials who have engaged in particularly severe violations of religious freedom — Any alien who, while serving as a foreign government official, was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time during the preceding 24-month period, particularly severe violations of religious freedom, as defined in section 3 of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, and the spouse and children, if any, are inadmissible.”

Obviously, Mr Modi’s track record as Chief Minister of Gujarat in tackling the large-scale communal riots in the wake of February 28, 2002 Godhra incident was taken into consideration by the US State Department. The State Department held Mr Modi responsible for performance (or non-performance) of his government when Gujarat was burning three years ago.

Significantly, had this law remained unchanged, Mr Modi would have been eligible for a US visa because the original law stipulated a 24-month time-frame and communal riots in Gujarat took place three years ago.

But unfortunately for Mr Modi, this particular section was amended in December 2004 and the 24-month time-frame was deleted. According to the new law, no time period is required for assessing the eligibility of a US visa aspirant. Moreover, there is yet another open-ended clause in the Immigration and Nationality Act of the US which refers to “Participants in nazi persecutions or genocide”. 

Section IV (ii) of this clause relates to “Participation in genocide” and says as follows: “Any alien who has engaged in conduct that is defined as genocide for purposes of the International Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide is inadmissible (for visa).” It is not known whether the State Department invoked this particular clause also in the case of Mr Modi. 


Cong objects to denial of visa to Modi
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 18
Seeking to keep “politics away” from the controversy over denial of visa to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi by the US, the Congress today “objected” to the decision, saying it should be reconsidered.

Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said Mr Modi held an “elected constitutional office” and had full right to travel anywhere as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

“Whatever reasons for the Congress opposition to the Gujarat Chief Minister, the party has an objection to his being denied a visa as he is on a constitutional post and holds a diplomatic passport. The US decision was uncalled for,” Mr Sharma said.

He said the party did not want to link the issue with politics and the party’s objection was to the “limited point” of denial of visa to the Gujarat Chief Minister.

“Having differences with Mr Modi over his policies is different from denial of visa to him. The country has Chief Ministers of various political parties and we have differences with them over policies.”

Asked if the Congress viewed the US decision as “an insult,” Mr Sharma said he would not use such words. “The country feels strongly about it.”

To repeated queries on the Congress criticism of Mr Modi for the post-Godhra riots, Mr Sharma said that though the Chief Minister was controversial, the denial of visa was a fundamentally different issue.

The Congress decision to object to the denial of visa to Mr Modi is being viewed as a move by the party to prevent the BJP from whipping up emotions over the issue by calling it an “insult.”

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