Although TIME magazine included Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in its online poll for the world’s 100 most influential people, the United States government took a dimmer view of the controversial political leader this week when a State Department Spokesperson clarified that there was no change in its decision to deny Mr. Modi a visa to enter the country.
At a press briefing Spokesperson Victoria Nuland responded to a question regarding a letter that U.S. Congressman Joe Walsh, Republican of Illinois, had written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, regarding whether the U.S.’ 2005 decision to not to issue Mr. Modi a visa would be reviewed.
Ms. Nuland said, “I haven’t seen the letter. I think you know that our position on the visa issue hasn’t changed at all, so I would guess that if we do respond, it’ll be along familiar lines.” The U.S. has expressed concerns about Mr. Modi’s association with the 2002 Gujarat riots, in which thousands were killed as an anti-Muslim pogrom was unleashed under his watch.
In 2005, Mr. Modi applied for but was denied a “diplomatic visa” under 214(b) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act and his existing tourist/business visa was revoked under Section 212 (a)(2)(g) of the Act.
Under the latter, foreign government officials are considered ineligible for a visa should the State Department view them as “responsible for, or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
The debate on Mr. Modi’s visa status comes close on the heels of a heated discussion following his appearance on the TIME list. While the magazine itself described the online poll as “unscientific,” some political leaders were said to have labelled Mr. Modi an “internet manipulator,” for getting his supporters to vote in the TIME poll to boost his standing.
Ironically TIME magazine noted that Mr. Modi had “amassed the most ‘no’ votes of anyone featured on the poll — more than 260,000.” One of its editors Bobby Ghosh, explained, “Being on the cover of TIME is neither a prize nor an endorsement. It is a sign of a person’s importance, or of their influence, certainly. Modi is unquestionably both of those things.”