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'No change in US visa policy, but Modi welcome to apply'

No change in US visa policy, but Modi welcome to apply

Washington: Amidst raging controversy over visa for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the US today refused to commit itself whether he would be granted permission to travel to America.

The State Department also parried questions on what the US would do if Modi becomes prime minister.

It maintained that Modi was welcome to apply for a visa which would be considered, but its policy has not changed.

"If Chief Minister Modi applies for a visa, his application will be considered to determine whether he qualifies for a visa, in accordance with US immigration law and policy," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference today.

"Our policy on this has not changed," she said when asked about granting visa to Modi.

The US has reservation over granting visa to Modi because of human rights violations in 2002 post-Godhra riots under his watch as the chief minister.

An Indian journalist asked Psaki about the campaign of BJP president Rajnath Singh in the US for a visa to Modi and said that the UPA government was unpopular and Modi may become prime minister.

"There are lots of speculation down the road. We encourage democratic elections. We don't take sides. We will be watching it closely," she said.

The journalist persisted with his question wanting to know how the US would treat Modi as the prime minister.

"I think I just said we will consider his application if he applies, and I'm not going to get ahead of where we are at this time," she said.

Psaki added, "But as you know, we don't talk about the specifics of that process or individual cases, but he would, of course, be considered if he were to apply."

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