The US has denied Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a visa despite prior government approval, drawing a strong response from India. New Delhi today lodged its protest through diplomatic channels, asking Washington to review its decision.
India said the decision was ‘‘uncalled for’’ and sought an ‘‘urgent reconsideration’’ given that the Gujarat CM was going there for an event organised by the Asian-American Hotel Association and had been granted clearance by the government for a diplomatic visa.
PMO sources said the US had sounded BJP president L K Advani two days ago that they were going to deny Modi a visa and that former External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha had been in touch with the US authorities.
The US not only denied Modi the diplomatic visa but also revoked his tourist/business visa, issued in 1998, saying its own laws clearly state that ‘‘any government official who was responsible for or directly carried out at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom’’ is ineligible for visa.
The decision created a stir with the Ministry of External Affairs summoning US Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Blake to lodge a protest.
Blake, who met Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran for 30 minutes, said he had explained the reasons for the decision and added that he would convey India’s protest as well as the demand for reconsideration to authorities in Washington.
The MEA’s spokesperson later said the US action ‘‘displays lack of courtesy and sensitivity towards a constitutionally-elected Chief Minister of a state of India’’.
At his meeting with Blake, the Foreign Secretary expressed ‘‘deep concern and regret’’ that the US Embassy had denied a visa to Modi. The spokesperson said the visa had been requested by the Ministry through a note verbale to the US Embassy on February 28.
On its part, the US Embassy said it had revoked Modi’s tourist/business visa and diplomatic visa under its Immigration and Nationality Act. The Embassy spokesperson said the diplomatic visa was denied under Section 214 (B) of the Act on the grounds that the purpose he was going to US ‘‘did not qualify’’ for a diplomatic visa.
His tourist/business visa was revoked under Section 212 (A)(2)(G) of the Act which makes ‘‘any government official who was responsible for or directly carried out at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom’’ ineligible for visa.
It’s learnt that the US pointed to a report of India’s National Human Rights Commission which cited failure on the part of state law and order machinery during the violence in Gujarat between February and May 2003. This has also found mention in the US report on International Religious Freedom and is said to be part of India’s country profile compiled by the US Department of State.
The denial of visa was, however, opposed by the Congress with its spokesman Anand Sharma reiterating the government line that the US action was not called for as Modi is a Chief Minister and holds a constitutional position.
‘‘India will feel strongly when a Chief Minister is denied visa,’’ he said while clarifying that the party was not looking at the issue from a political angle and it must not be construed that the Congress was giving a clean chit to Modi. ‘‘This must not be seen as a dilution of what we have said earlier about Modi.’’
Predictably, the BJP reacted sharply saying it was ‘‘unwarranted’’ and was an ‘‘insult’’ to the entire nation.
‘‘Granting visa is the sovereign right of any state but the manner in which it was done and reasons given (for the denial) are unacceptable,’’ said Yashwant Sinha.
According to Sinha, Modi was going to the US on an invitation from the Gujarati community. ‘‘The US administration has come to the conclusion without checking facts with the Gujarat government. This is unwarranted,’’ he said.
LEFT, RIGHT AGREE: IT'S DISCOURTEOUS
• MEA: Displays lack of courtesy, sensitivity towards an elected CM • CONG: India will feel strongly when a CM is denied visa. This must not be seen as dilution of what we have said earlier about Modi • BJP: It’s an insult to the nation, reasons given (for visa denial) are unacceptable • CPM: BJP leaders have very good relations with the US. Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha should have better knowledge why this has happened • CPI: It is definitely a discourtesy. It is for the American government to explain