Friday, March 18, 2005

Stick your Pipeline up your Arse

The U.S. Embassy on Friday denied a visa to the Hindu nationalist chief minister of India's western Gujarat state over his role in 2002 religious riots. India slammed the decision, saying it showed a "lack of courtesy and sensitivity."

Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a leader of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, was denied a diplomatic visa to travel to the United States and his existing tourist/business visa was revoked, a U.S. embassy spokesman said.

With the U.S. ambassador to India out of town, Indian officials summoned his deputy Robert Blake "to lodge a strong protest … and to request an urgent reconsideration," the External Affairs ministry said.

"This action … is uncalled for and displays lack of courtesy and sensitivity toward a constitutionally elected chief minister of a state of India," the ministry said in a statement, expressing the government's "deep concern and regret."

Modi called the decision an insult to India.

Some 1,000 people mostly Muslims were killed in the religious riots in Gujarat in 2002. The riots were sparked by an attack on a train car in which 60 Hindus returning from a religious pilgrimage were burned to death. Muslim mobs were blamed for the fire.

But human rights groups accused Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government of doing little to stop the violence, and the Supreme Court criticized its lenient handling of Hindus accused of killing Muslims.

The U.S. embassy spokesman said on condition of anonymity that Modi was ineligible for a visa under a U.S. law that makes any foreign government official who "was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom."

The embassy official also said Modi "was denied a diplomatic visa under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act because he was not coming for the purpose that qualified for a diplomatic visa."

Modi had been scheduled to address an association of motel owners in New York this weekend. He also had planned to meet with Indian nationals in Florida and in New Jersey.

Modi called the U.S. decision "an insult to India and its constitution."

"The United States can't impose its laws on other countries. In the same way, India should deny visas to U.S. officials as a protest against Washington's policies in Iraq," Modi said.