The United States has reiterated it will process the visa application of Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi, without indicating whether it will reverse the decision to revoke his visa in the wake of the 2002 riots in Gujarat state.
The US government in 2005 revoked a valid visa held by Modi in reaction to the Hindu-Muslim riots which left hundreds dead. Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, faced criticism for the violence with many accusing him of doing little to stop the riots. He, however, has not been found guilty of complicity by any Indian court.
"We said he (Modi) is free to apply for a visa, and we'll make a decision based on the process that we have in place here," agencies said on Monday, quoting State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf .
United States officials had earlier said that Modi was free to apply for a visa like any other person and that it would be processed in the normal manner.
In the last several weeks, since Modi became the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, speculation has circulated over Washington’s view on his visa. The question is: if Modi does get elected as prime minister after the national elections in April-May, how will the US react on the visa issue.
US-India ties important
US officials, quizzed on this issue, said that the relationship between the two countries was “too important” to be derailed over the issue of a visa to Modi.
Reports, quoting former US Under-Secretary of State for International Security Affairs Frank Wisner, said "Narenda Modi is an able man; we'll have to see how he conducts himself if he rises to the top."
"But doing business with him will be an imperative, assuming of course his party is able to form India's next government," the reports said, quoting Wisner.
The US establishment is divided on the issue. A resolution in the US Congress in November 2013 called on the State Department to continue denying Modi his US visa. The resolution was supported by 43 congressional co-sponsors, reports said.
Analysts however say the US industry, which wants to capitalise on Modi’s perceived openness to foreign investment, is in favour of relegating the visa denial issue to the back-burner.