Lawmakers invite divisive Indian Hindu nationalist to visit

NEW DELHI Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:54pm EDT

Gujarat's chief minister Narendra Modi speaks during the ''Vibrant Gujarat Summit'' at Gandhinagar in the western Indian state of Gujarat January 12, 2013. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Gujarat's chief minister Narendra Modi speaks during the ''Vibrant Gujarat Summit'' at Gandhinagar in the western Indian state of Gujarat January 12, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Amit Dave

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A visiting U.S. congressional delegation on Thursday invited the chief minister of India's Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, to the United States, despite the fact that Washington has denied him a visa since 2005 because of deadly religious riots.

The invitation was a symbolic victory for Modi, a popular but divisive Hindu nationalist leader who is widely seen as harboring ambitions to become prime minister in 2014 and has been trying to win greater international acceptance.

However, the offer from Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives is not likely to influence whether he eventually receives a visa from the State Department, which said such invitations have "no bearing" on their decisions.

Modi is accused by critics of not doing enough to stop - or of even quietly encouraging - riots in 2002 in which at least 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, were killed. He has denied the accusations but they have cast a shadow over his political ambitions and for years he was shunned by the West.

Indian media saw Thursday's visit by Representatives Aaron Schock, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers and Cynthia Lummis as a public relations coup for Modi, who has been trying to cultivate an image of a statesman. He quickly tweeted that the congressional delegation had lauded his leadership abilities.

It was the highest level U.S. delegation to meet Modi since the riots, an official in Modi's office said. The United States has maintained links with his administration at a consular level. U.S. companies such as Ford Motor Co. have major operations in Gujarat.

Schock, an Illinois congressman, told a news conference that American business leaders had encouraged him to visit Gujarat "because unlike other places in India our foreign investment is welcome".

"My colleagues and I were thoroughly impressed with our meeting with Modi and I will tell you that he is a very dynamic person and he has a pretty impressive track record here in the state of Gujarat.

"We extended an invitation to the chief minister to come to the United States and share with our colleagues some of what he's done here in the state."

McMorris-Rodgers, who is from Washington state and is the fourth-ranking Republican leader in the House of Representatives, said U.S. lawmakers would work with the Obama administration to ease the travel curbs on Modi.

The issue of human rights was not discussed during the 90-minute meeting, an official in Modi's office said.

There was no immediate comment from the State Department but Robert Blake, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said in February that the United States was not reconsidering its policy towards Modi.

"Visa decisions for all individuals are grounded in U.S. law and made by the Department of State on a case-by-case basis," said a U.S. State Department spokeswoman. "An invitation from a U.S. lawmaker has no bearing on any decision regarding potential visas."

"This case is no different. There has been no change to our visa policy. Our longstanding policy with regard to the Chief Minister is that he is welcome to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant," she added. "I am not going to speculate about what the outcome might be."

The lawmakers' trip came week after a British foreign minister met Modi in Gujarat, the most high-profile visit by a British official since the country ended its boycott of Modi in October. Modi has also been invited to a session of the European Parliament, his website said.

Diplomats in New Delhi say that given Modi's rising star, it is important for foreign governments to get to know him better.

(Additional reporting by Annie Banerji, Matthias Williams and Satarupa Bhattacharjya in New Delhi and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Comments (3)
syedna wrote:
Modi will never be India Prime Minister. He has tarnished Indian image. He has still to get punishment for his crimes. It is against American values to receive criminals against humanity.

Mar 28, 2013 7:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
syedna wrote:
No visa to Official killers

Mar 28, 2013 7:33pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
san-man wrote:
Modi himself is not divisive, and is a progressive politician who mainly focuses on development and economic improvement.

What’s divisive is how India’s ruling Congress One Party State has come to smear and demonize anyone who can pose a threat to their monopoly on political power at the national level.

Here we have a competent and able political leader from a low caste group who genuinely knows how to improve economic conditions for India’s billion poor people, and the Congress Party is so terrified of him that they will stop at nothing to smear him. I’m surprised that they haven’t circulated rumours that he likes to wear women’s lingerie at night.

The ruling Congress Party kleptocracy only wants to hang onto power at all costs. Like Egypt’s Mubarak, who constantly stoked fear among minorities that they wouldn’t be able to survive without his personal protection, likewise India’s Congress Party seeks to do the same thing by stoking up minorities with scary stories about Modi in order to rally them to the side of the decaying Congress regime. The Congress kleptocrats know that this is the cheapest way to gain die-hard loyalists to fight for the regime, short of raising their own orphans like Ceaucescu did.

Mar 28, 2013 10:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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