New Delhi, March 18, 2005
The US Friday announced it was denying a visa to Narendra
Modi for his alleged complicity in the state's sectarian
violence three years ago, sparking a diplomatic row
The move came just two days after the visit of Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice and gave a new twist to
bilateral relations, even as Modi hit back angrily
questioning the US human rights record in Iraq.
The Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance
(UPA) government, which has no love lost for Modi
as a politician, summoned US deputy chief of mission
Robert Blake and lodged a strong protest over Washington's
decision, terming it "uncalled for" and
seeking an urgent review.
Modi was to begin a five-day visit to New York and
Florida Saturday at the invitation of the Asian-American
Hotel Owners Association, whose supporters were locked
in a battle in the US with rights activists had opposed
the chief minister's entry.
In a strongly worded statement, the external affairs
ministry said: "The action on the part of the
US embassy is uncalled for and displays lack of courtesy
and sensitivity towards a constitutionally elected
chief minister of a state of India."
A ministry spokesman said New Delhi had voiced "its
deep concern and regret" and wanted Washington
to review its decision. Blake said after his meeting
at the South Block, where the foreign ministry is
housed, that he would convey the sentiments to Washington.
Earlier, the US embassy said Modi's tourist and business
visa, issued in 1998, had been revoked and he would
not get a diplomatic visa either.
Embassy spokesman David Kennedy told IANS that the
decision was taken because of Modi's role in the Gujarat
violence that erupted in February 2002 leaving at
least 1,000 people dead, mostly Muslims.
A furious Modi hit back in Ahmedabad, saying the
US had insulted the Indian constitution by denying
him a visa, and urged the government to take up the
matter with the US administration.
"This decision is an insult to the Indian constitution,
it is an attack on Indian sovereignty," a visibly
hurt Modi told reporters, underlining that the announcement
came when he was all set to fly.
Modi, who was chief minister during the 2002 violence,
asked rhetorically if the Indian government would
have denied a visa to the US army chief over the killings
Embassy spokesman Kennedy said the decision was taken
under the Immigration and Nationality Act "under
which any foreign government official responsible
for serious violation of religious freedom is ineligible
"The US law is clear that states or government
officials responsible for carrying out serious violations
of religious freedom are ineligible for visa."
Kennedy referred to the US Annual Country Report
on international human rights practices that documented
the Gujarat violence, which was widely blamed for
the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government's
stunning defeat in last year's parliamentary elections.
Various rights groups had launched a campaign to
keep Modi out of America, urging Washington not to
grant him a visa for his alleged role in perpetrating
anti-Muslim violence in the state.
Modi said: "No court in India has so far given
one judgement against the Gujarat government. No one
in the world...
"At a time like this, America, by taking a one-sided
decision, has greatly insulted the Indian constitution
and the country's self-respect.
"This is purely to put down India, to insult
"I request the (Indian) PM (Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh) and the Indian government that they should
rise above politics and should take up this issue
for the sake of Indian sovereignty."
Indian political parties reacted cautiously, while
the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the BJP's ideological
mentor, strongly came to the defence of Modi.
"Who is the US to talk about human rights violations?"
asked RSS spokesman Ram Madhav. "What is happening
in Iraq? What is happening in Afghanistan?"
Former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha of
BJP said: "We should rise above party lines ...
India has to intervene and take up the issue with
the US government."