US still cagey about Modi visa


Even as exit polls suggested that Narendra Modi may emerge as the next Indian prime minister, the US continued to act cagey on the issue of a visa for the Bharatiya Janata Party leader.

“As you know, we don’t talk about visa applications. We’re looking forward to working with the new Indian government when they’re elected,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Tuesday when asked if Modi will get a US visa if he becomes prime minister.

“But I’m not going to speculate on that given, obviously, the results haven’t been announced yet,” she added sticking to the standard State department formulation.

Washington has shunned Modi since revoking his business visa in 2005 for his alleged role or inaction during 2002 Gujarat riots.

However, signalling a major change in its outlook since the emergence of Modi on the national scene, outgoing US ambassador Nancy Powell met the Gujarat chief minister in February.

Psaki clarified that heads of state and heads of government are eligible for A1 visa classification under the Immigration and Nationality Act 1952.

But “No individual automatically qualifies for a US visa,” she said though “US law exempts foreign government officials, individuals – including heads of state and heads of government for certain potential inadmissibility grounds.”

“I’m not going to get into any greater level of detail,” Psaki said.

“I’m not speculating. Obviously, I’m not going to speak to visa applications,” she repeated when asked about a visa for Modi if and when he comes to the US in the event of his becoming prime minister.

Asked if it was standard practice for all foreign heads of state or heads of government to sit down with a consular official and apply and be interviewed for a visa, Psaki parried: “Well, anyone can apply for a visa.”

“But beyond that, I don’t think I have more to add on visa applications.”