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'Automatic US visa for Modi if he becomes Prime Minister'
Tuesday April 1, 2014 12:56 PM, Arun Kumar, IANS

Amid a Congressional report that Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra Modi will be automatically entitled to a US visa if he becomes prime minister, the US reiterated it would work with whoever Indian people choose.

"We will work with whoever the people of India decide should lead their country," State Department spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters Monday.

"We believe it's a critical partnership, and we're moving forward with it," she said when asked about a recent memo from the bipartisan Congressional Research Service.

The memo covers queries from lawmakers regarding visa policy for Modi, who was denied a US visa in 2005 over his alleged complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Asked if that included Modi, the spokesperson who claimed she had not seen the CRS memo, said: "Well, I think it remains to be seen what the outcome of the election will be, so let's not try and do too much predicting in here."

"Secondly, we have a very close - very, very close - relationship with India on a whole host of issues, whether it's energy, the economy, environmental issues, security issues, a whole host of issues."

"That has not changed. We look forward to growing that even stronger," Harf said. "The people of India get to decide who leads their country. We'll work with whoever they decide."

The March 18 memo from Ruth Ellen Wasem, Specialist in Immigration Policy at CRS said If Modi "were to become Prime Minister of India, he would automatically be eligible for an A-1 (diplomatic) visa as head of state, regardless of the purpose of his visit."

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) "further provides that the grounds for inadmissibility - excepting specified terrorist grounds and documentary requirements establishing identity - do not apply to those on A-1 visas," the memo noted.

"This provision, often referred to as diplomatic immunity, allows the President of the United States to proscribe other exceptions to immunity as necessary through rules and regulations."

The President, however, does have broad authority under the law "to prohibit the entry of any foreign national whom the President deems would be detrimental to the interests of the US," the memo noted.

Meanwhile, Harf also denied that the sudden resignation of US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell Monday was in any way "related to any tension, any recent situations" between India and the US.

"There's no big behind-the-scenes story here," Harf said suggesting Powell "has submitted her resignation to President (Barack) Obama, as has been planned for some time, and she will retire to her home in Delaware before the end of May."

"This is the end of a distinguished 37-year career - I think after 37 years, she deserves to retire," Harf said. "But I want to dispel any rumours out there that this is related in any, to anything besides her long-planned retirement."

"It's not at all related to anything happening in the relationship, it doesn't indicate any realignment of the relationship," she said.

Harf described India-US relationship as "an incredibly key partnership that will continue under our team there and under whoever is named the next ambassador."

"Obviously, the relationship between the US and India isn't about one person, while incredibly important.

"It's about the whole host of officials that engage, from Secretary (of State John) Kerry and others at the White House and here on down," Harf said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)



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