The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bush bombs Modi's flight
Belated riot retaliation

March 18: The United States today fired the diplomatic equivalent of a Patriot missile at Narendra Modi by striking down his request to travel to America because of the Gujarat riots.

The US embassy said: 'His tourist/business visa was revoked under section 212 (a)(2)(g) of the US Immigration and Nationality (Act) which makes 'any government official who was responsible for or directly carried out at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom', ineligible for visa.'

His application for a diplomatic visa was also denied because 'he was not coming for the purpose that qualified for diplomatic visa', the embassy said.

The Indian government called a US diplomat based in Delhi to protest against the decision and sought reconsideration, but did not receive an assurance.

In Ahmedabad, Modi, who had shown not a flutter in public throughout the turbulence unleashed by the 2002 months-long carnage after the Godhra train burning, felt angered enough to call a media conference.

'The one-sided US decision amounts to an insult to India's Constitution and self-respect,' he said.

The Manmohan Singh government described the US decision as 'uncalled for', displaying a 'lack of courtesy and sensitivity' to an elected Indian leader.

Modi had been invited to be the chief guest at the annual convention of the Gujarati-dominated Asian American Hotel Owners' Association in Florida from March 24 to 26.

'The government expressed its deep concern and regret that the US embassy has denied a visa to Narendra Modi, honourable chief minister of Gujarat,' external affairs ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said after a meeting between foreign secretary Shyam Saran and US deputy chief of mission Robert Blake.

Sarna made it clear that the visit had Delhi's sanction by saying a formal communication requesting a visa was made on February 28.

Blake said he would convey India's request for a review of the decision to Washington.

Some Muslim and Christian organisations in the US have been campaigning against the visit. On Tuesday, two US Congressmen, John Conyers and Joe Pitts, moved a resolution criticising Modi's role in the riots.

Pitts sent a memorandum with signatures of 21 US Senators and Congress members to secretary of state Condoleezza Rice before she came to Delhi on Wednesday, urging her to stop Modi's trip. It is not known if Rice raised the issue with the Indian leaders.

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