Rahul Gandhi decided to travel to the United States as a regular citizen after he was forced out of the Indian Parliament. This decision reveals a great deal about his public persona. The fact that there is no evidence of his involvement in genocide, persecution of religious freedom, or rioting while in office proves his reputation is impeccable.
Can Modi travel to the US if he loses his prime ministership?
After the horrible riots in 2002, the United States government did not permit the then Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, to enter the country. Richard Boucher, who had previously served as a spokesman for the US State Department, announced the embargo in 2005. It was said that Modi did not do enough to stop the riots in Gujarat in 2002. These riots resulted in the deaths of over a thousand people, most of whom were Muslims, and led to the enforcement of the ban under the International Religious Freedom Act.
Following the law that prohibits visas to any foreign official who “a) directly carried out, b) at any time, and c) exceptionally grave abuses of religious freedom,” the administration of George W. Bush prevented Narendra Modi from visiting the country.
Not only did the United States government not give Narendra Modi a diplomatic visa, but also took away his tourist and business visas.
However, once Modi was elected Prime Minister of India in 2014, the United States government lifted his travel ban and permitted him to visit the country. After investigating the matter, the United States government announced that it had concluded that Modi was no longer a threat to religious liberty.
When asked to explain the current status of PM Modi’s visa, the then spokeswoman for the United States Department of State, Jen Psaki, responded that the prime minister of India would be welcome to visit the United States. Mr Modi, in “his capacity as head of government”, would be eligible for an “A-1 visa.”
In November 2022, the United States government defended the immunity of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, given journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, by citing Prime Minister Modi as an example.
According to Vedant Patel, principal deputy spokesperson for the US Department of State, this has been an ongoing and steady line of activity. It has been used on multiple world leaders before. He went on to cite several examples, including Indian Prime Minister Modi.
Examples that Vedant Patel provided include those from when President Aristide was in power in Haiti in 1993, President Mugabe was in power in Zimbabwe in 2001, Prime Minister Modi was in power in India in 2014, and President Kabila was in power in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018.
Interestingly, Patel said, “This is a reflection of a legal designation that flows from the crown prince’s role as the head of government.”
If Modi is ousted from the position of prime minister, he will no longer hold any key formal government position. If he had a valid visa and wanted to visit the United States privately, he could do so without problems. However, if the government of the United States considers that he poses a risk to national security, it has the authority to refuse to grant him a visa.
Former international leaders, such as former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić, have been denied visas to enter the United States in the past. Both individuals were charged with committing crimes against humanity and acts of wartime violence.
Concerns about religious freedom under PM Modi in India persists
The State Department released its annual report on religious freedom on May 15, which included a list of attacks against religious minorities, including Muslims and Christians, in India by Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalists.
New Delhi has long responded to American criticism, particularly that of the independent US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which earlier this month recommended that India be placed on a blacklist by the State Department due to its record. This is the fourth time USCIRF has recommended doing so.
However, such allegations are pertinent given visa approval decisions. USCIRF recommends foreign policy to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress. In May 2013, USCIRF recommended maintaining the visa prohibition against Chief Minister Modi. Narendra Modi was at the time campaigning to become the prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2018 general election.
In 2022, the Modi government denied a visa to USCIRF, said India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. In a June 1 letter to a lawmaker from Modi’s ruling party, he stated that India has also denied visas to USCIRF teams seeking to visit the country to investigate issues related to religious freedom.
USCIRF could be one of the main reasons why Narendra Modi’s visa as a private citizen could be denied in the future.