WASHINGTON – As exit polls suggest that Narendra Modi is set to be India’s next premier, the US administration is maintaining silence on granting a visa to the Hindu nationalist leader more than a decade after barring him from entering the US following Muslims’ massacre in Gujarat.
"We don't speak on visa acceptances, applications, etcetera, so I don't have anything for you on that," State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported on Tuesday, May 13.
"We view our relationship with India as one that's vitally important for economic, strategic reasons, and one that we look forward to continuing to grow in the future," she said when asked about the issue of visa for Modi, who is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate.
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Tense relations with the Hindu nationalist started after the bloody massacre of more than 2000 Muslim in Gujarat in 2002.
After the bloodshed, Modi, who he has been Gujarat chief minister since 2001, was shunned by Western nations for years.
In 2005, the US State Department had revoked a visa that Modi had for travelling to the US under the terms of a 1998 US law which bars entry to foreigners who have committed "particularly severe violations of religious freedom."
Last year, Modi's plans to address by video a University of Pennsylvania conference were scrapped following opposition from Indian-American professors, alumni and students.
The US has repeatedly said there is no change in its long-standing visa policy relating to Modi but he is free to apply for a visa and await a review like any other applicant.
In a sudden u-turn in February, the US signaled the end of its boycott of Modi when its ambassador to India Nancy Powell met him in Ahmedabad.
Similar welcoming messages were echoed by State Department spokesperson yesterday.
"We view our relationship with India as one that's vitally important for economic, strategic reasons, and one that we look forward to continuing to grow in the future," Psaki said.
"India continues to play a critical role in advancing prosperity, democracy, and stability across the Indo-Pacific region," she stated earlier.
Asked if Modi has the support of the US, she said: "As you know, we don't take positions in domestic politics in India or anywhere else.
"As this has been election season in a large, pluralistic, multiparty democracy, it's not a surprise that it's going to take some time to, obviously, process the voting and we look forward to working with the next leader," Psaki added.
President Barack Obama has asserted the US looked forward to "working closely" with India's next administration.
"I congratulate the people of India on concluding their national elections" he said in a statement on Monday without any reference to the polls or likelihood of Modi.
"India has set an example for the world in holding the largest democratic election in history, a vibrant demonstration of our shared values of diversity and freedom," Obama said.
"The United States and India have developed a strong friendship and comprehensive partnership over the last two decades, which has made our citizens safer and more prosperous and which has enhanced our ability to work together to solve global challenges," he said.
"We look forward to the formation of a new government once election results are announced and to working closely with India's next administration to make the coming years equally transformative," Obama said.
Psaki also congratulated "the people of India on their participation in the largest-ever free and fair democratic election in human history."
"Over 500 million eligible voters peacefully went to the polls over the last six weeks, often in remote or challenging locations," she noted.
"These elections are an inspiring example of the power of the democratic process in action, and the United States, like so many others around the world, has great admiration and respect for the vibrancy, diversity, and resilience of India's democracy," Psaki said.
The voting for nine phased Indian elections ended on May 12, a few days before the announcement of the final results on May 16.
Hundreds of millions of Indians have voted over the past five weeks in this election.
More than 2,000 Muslims were hacked and burnt to death in Gujarat in 2002 by Hindu mobs after Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire, which was first blamed on Muslims but turned accidental due to a later inquiry.
Several investigations at the state and federal levels accused police of failing to protect Muslims under orders from Modi and his aides, fanning one of the worst instances of sectarian violence in India.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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