'Modi welcome to apply for visa, will review case'
Even as it acknowledged that a US congressional delegation's visit to Gujarat had official sanction, the US said there was no immediate change in its stand on a visa to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, but he is "welcome to apply".
"Visits like this do help support a deepening of business-to-business ties, of people-to-people ties, across India, in Gujarat," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters Thursday in response to a question.
"So from our perspective, the more congressional delegations that visit India and understand its dynamism and diversity, the more likely we are to continue to deepen those important ties," she said.
But this did not foretell a change in its policy towards Modi, who has been denied a US visa for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujrat riots, Nuland said.
"With regard to Mr. Modi, our lines have not changed here. He is welcome to apply," she said. But "All visa decisions are made on a case by case basis, and I'm not going to prejudge it here."
The US ambassador to India Nancy J. Powell met the congressional delegation led by Republican member of the House Aaron Schock, Nuland said. But she was not sure if the envoy accompanied the delegation that met Modi March 28 and invited him to visit the US.
"I don't know if our Ambassador accompanied them to Gujarat. She obviously sees all congressional delegations which come through Delhi," the spokesperson said. She also didn't believe that Powell had met Modi.
Asked if the State Department was obligated to issue a visa to a person invited by a member or members of Congress, Nuland repeated: "We've said at all points that like any other visa applicant he's welcome to apply and we'll review the case on the merits."
"Every visa is adjudicated on the merits and in the context of US law individually," she added.
Asked if the Congressional delegation had met Secretary of State John Kerry before going to India or would brief him on their return, Nuland said "I expect they had a good discussion" with Powell, who would convey the results of their trip back to Washington.