Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Narendra Modi must be Prime Minister to be automatically eligible for US diplomatic visa: Congressional report

By Our Representative
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi must become Prime Minister of India in order to get a diplomatic visa for the US. This is the crux of the new Congressional Research Service memorandum “Visa Policy: the case of Narendra Modi”, written by Ruth Ellen Wasem, specialist in immigration policy, made public on March 18. In her categorical statement, Wasem says, “If Narendra Modi were to become Prime Minister of India, he would automatically be eligible for A-1 (diplomatic) visa as head of state, regardless of the purpose of his visit.”
The rider of “if Narendra Modi were to become Prime Minister” should appear as a clear disapproval of Modi’s policies in Gujarat, say observers. While the Congressional report is being widely interpreted, including by the New York Times, as “the prospect of keeping Modi out of the US is looking dimmer and dimmer”, Wasem’s analysis provides two different scenarios under which Modi can get visa. The first is “if” he becomes Prime Minister, and the other is, in case he remains Gujarat chief minister.
In the latter case, according to Wasem, “If chief minister Narendra Modi sought visa to come to the US today, he would likely to be applying for a B visitor visa. The B-1 visas are visitors for business and other purely local employment or hire. The B-2 visas are granted to temporary visitors for ‘pleasure’ otherwise known as tourists. His role as the chief minister of Gujarat does not provide eligibility to enter as a diplomat on A visa. Ambassadors, consuls, and official representatives of foreign governments enter the US on A visas.”
Pointing out that only in case the Government of India certifies him as “part of a special diplomatic mission or delegation could he apply for A visa”, Wasem suggests, even then, getting the A category would not be so easy, as it would require a lengthy procedure. This procedure would require the US diplomats to get themselves satisfied that Modi is a “key contact, who promotes US national interests, mission goals, or public diplomacy efforts”, and is a “prominent individual who is not a contact, but is well known, such as a nationally-known figure.”
In fact, the researcher says, Modi’s visa application would have to be examined under the US law International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which states that “any alien who, while serving as a foreign government official, was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom… is inadmissible.” As it was on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF’s) advise Modi was denied visa in 2005 for 10 years, the option of looking into his role in the 2002 riots would still be open.
While considering his visa application, the US government would look into India's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) report which said Modi “was widely accused of being reluctant to bring the perpetrators of the killings of the Muslims to justice”. It would also see other reports, including the one prepared by the special investigation (SIT), appointed by the Supreme Court, which found “no substantial incriminating evidence” against Modi. At the same time, it would consider the Gujarat High Court criticism of Modi for “inaction and negligence” during the violence.
The US Congressional report, interesting, does not stop here. At the very fag end, it quotes President Barrack Obama’s August 2011 order, which says the President, if he so wishes, can prohibit “the entry of any foreign national” who is “detrimental to the interests of the US.” The order specifically says the US president can cancel order of a foreign national in case he has “planned, ordered, aided, abetted, committed or otherwise participated in, including through command responsibility, widespread or systematic violence against any civilian population … on race, colour, descent, …indigenous group, language, religion…”
The research paper was prepared on the basis of a query by Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, and Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who have “a track record of criticizing Modi”, says the New York Times, adding, On November 18, 2013, Pitts introduced House Resolution 417, which called for the US to continue to deny Modi a visa and argued that ‘the Gujarat government has not adequately pursued justice for the victims of the 2002 violence.’ Today, the resolution has 44 co-sponsors, including Ellison.”
Quoting sources in the US Congress, the New York Times believes, this was the “last ditch attempt” by Pitts and Ellison “to see what can be done to block Modi’s visa.” It adds, “This perhaps explains why the congressmen asked the Congressional Research Service about existing legal options to challenge a decision to grant a United States visa to a foreign national, but Wasem, an immigration specialist, said she was unable to answer the question” and the issue would be addressed separately by “Margaret Mikyung Lee”, a legal expert.

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