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Singh sharpens knife

New Delhi, March 19: The controversy involving the US and Narendra Modi had its repercussion in Parliament today with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh setting the tone to criticise Washington's decision to deny the Gujarat chief minister a visa.

'We respect the sovereign right of a country to grant or refuse visa to any person. We do not believe that it is appropriate to use allegations or anything less than due legal process to make a subjective judgement to question a constitutional authority in India,' the Prime Minister said in the Rajya Sabha after Jaswant Singh, leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, raised the matter during special mention.

'We agree that this is not a matter of partisan politics, but rather a matter of concern over a point of principle. I think the government's prompt and firm response clearly shows our principled stand in this matter,' Manmohan Singh said.

Ironically, the US government's action has forced even those vehemently opposed to Modi not to make any contrary noise. Many are privately happy with the US decision but dare not say so in public.

The Prime Minister said that the minute he heard of the US decision he instructed foreign minister K. Natwar Singh to to call the US envoy in Delhi and register India's 'concern and regret' over Washington's decision.

'Our government has equally pointed out our deep concern and regret over the US decision to deny visa to a constitutionally elected chief minister of our country,' the Prime Minister said. He felt it was an 'uncalled for decision' which 'lacked sensitivity'. India has asked the US to reconsider it.

In a rare gesture, Jaswant Singh praised the government for its stand and said: 'The external affairs ministry stood boldly for India.' That is the function of the ministry. I will be failing in my duty if I do not acknowledge this fact.'

He said some of the allegations against Modi were 'tendentious and totally false'.

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