'Modi welcome to apply for a US visa like anyone else'
Notwithstanding Bharatiya Janata Party's anointment of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, the US says he would still have to apply for a US visa like any other applicant.
"There's no change in our longstanding visa policy," State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters Friday, while declining to comment on BJP's announcement regarding Modi.
"Well, I'm not going to comment, as I don't think we ever do, on domestic Indian politics," she said. "These are decisions for the Indian people to make, certainly not for me to make judgments on one way or the other."
But Modi "is welcome to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant," Harf said adding, "That review will be, of course, grounded in US law. And I just am not going to speculate about what the outcome of that review might be."
Asked if there was a problem relating to Modi's visa when several other politicians from various political parties could come to the US freely, she repeated "Again, we're not involved in domestic Indian politics."
"If Mr. Modi would like to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant, he's certainly free to do so."
Modi has not applied for a US visa since 2005 when he was denied a diplomatic visa for his alleged inaction in controlling the 2002 Godhra riots. In addition, the B-1/B-2 visa that had previously been granted to him was also revoked.
The action was taken under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act which makes any foreign government official who was responsible or "directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom" ineligible for the visa.
While there has been no change in the US position officially, the US business has been warming up to the Gujarat leader and the issue is being debated both in the administration and among the lawmakers.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 14-09-2013)