Amidst raging controversy in India over visa for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the U.S. today refused to commit itself whether he would be granted permission to travel to America.
The State Department also parried questions on what the U.S. would do if Mr. Modi becomes prime minister.
It maintained that Mr. Modi was welcome to apply for a visa which would be considered, but its policy has not changed.
“If Chief Minister Modi applies for a visa, his application will be considered to determine whether he qualifies for a visa, in accordance with U.S. immigration law and policy,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference on Thursday.
“Our policy on this has not changed,” she said when asked about granting visa to Mr. Modi.
The U.S. has reservation over granting visa to Mr. Modi because of human rights violations in 2002 post-Godhra riots under his watch as the Chief Minister.
An Indian journalist asked Ms. Psaki about the campaign of BJP president Rajnath Singh in the U.S. for a visa to Mr. Modi and said that the UPA government was unpopular and Mr. Modi may become prime minister.
“There are lots of speculation down the road. We encourage democratic elections. We don’t take sides. We will be watching it closely,” she said.
The journalist persisted with his question wanting to know how the U.S. would treat Mr. Modi as the prime minister.
“I think I just said we will consider his application if he applies, and I’m not going to get ahead of where we are at this time,” she said.
Ms. Psaki added, “But as you know, we don’t talk about the specifics of that process or individual cases, but he would, of course, be considered if he were to apply.”
The State Department’s remarks came as the visiting BJP president Singh was winding up his three-day hectic visit to Washington, during which he met a host of US lawmakers, think tanks and academicians.
Mr. Singh told the Indian-American media here that he did not raise the issue of Mr. Modi’s visa with the U.S. He said that this is an issue for the U.S. Government to take a call on.
“This is not our issue. This is an issue for U.S. Administration,” he said.
Responding to a question, Mr. Singh said Mr. Modi is a “very very” popular leader of the country.
The State Department’s remarks also came amid controversy over the issue of 65 MPs writing to U.S. President Barack Obama urging the U.S. Administration to maintain the current policy of denying visa to Mr. Modi.
40 Lok Sabha and 25 Rajya Sabha MPs were reported to have written to Mr. Obama on the visa issue.
BJP has demanded a probe into the matter.