By Arun Kumar, Washington, Aug 20 IANS | 4 months ago

The US has reiterated that it looks forward to welcoming Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi despite an online petition seeking cancellation of his visit.

An online "We the People" petition to the White House initiated by US based Sikhs for Justice had demanded that instead of hosting Modi at White House, President Barack Obama should condemn Modi and ban his Bharatiya Janata Party "for perpetrating violence against Muslims, Sikhs and Christians."

However, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters Tuesday that a number of signatures were removed from the petition as "some fraud checks indicated a high number of anomalous signatures."

"Users can still sign the petition, and if it garners 100,000 non-fraudulent signatures before the deadline, I think it will receive an official response," she said. "So again, people are free to express themselves."

"However, we, the President, the Secretary (of State John Kerry) look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi to the United States," Harf said.

"We have said that consistently since his election, and that remains the case."

The US which had shunned Modi for nine years and cancelled his visa in 2005 for his alleged role or inaction during 2002 Gujarat riots quickly reached out to the Indian leader shortly after BJP's victory in the parliamentary poll with Obama inviting him for a visit.

Asked if the US could prosecute a foreign leader for what happened in their country, the spokesperson said: "I wouldn't want to venture a guess at that hypothetical."

But "I will repeat what I just said, that we look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi to the United States, as the President and the Secretary have both said."

In response to another question Harf said the US was "disappointed" that the foreign secretary level talks between India and Pakistan had "fallen through" over Pakistani envoy's meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders.

"We are engaging with the governments of both India and Pakistan directly through our embassies to talk about this issue, and again, would strongly support efforts by both countries to improve their bilateral relations - all aspects of them," she said.

"So it's really up to them to take steps to improve that relationship."

The US was also watching the domestic situation in Pakistan, Harf said asking all parties to "work together to resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue in a way that strengthens Pakistan's democracy, and that's certainly the consistent message we have sent."

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

(Posted on 20-08-2014)

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