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'We'll have Modi in will and faith'

By by Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
Last updated on: March 22, 2005 10:36 IST
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Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who was denied a United States visa to be the chief guest and kick-off speaker at the annual convention of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association on March 24-26, will speak to the hoteliers after all.

The AAHOA is obviously buoyed by the success of the live satellite link-up on Sunday that enabled Modi to address nearly 5,000 people in Madison Square Garden in New York.

US reaffirms decision | Modi 'live' at Madison Square Garden

The AAHOA hierarchy has been working overtime with the Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center authorities to have a similar hook-up so that Modi can deliver the same speech he was scheduled to do on March 24 after inaugurating the convention with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Chairman Naresh 'Nash' Patel, told that AAHOA had a tape with Modi's speech, but were hoping to have a live hook-up similar to the one in Madison Square Garden.

"We are in the process of setting it up," he said.

Modi visa: India regrets US decision

Patel said, "We are hoping that with the video link-up we can have a interactive session with the chief minister, but I don't know if we can set it all up in time. I don't know all the telecommunications part, but we'll find out on the day of the convention if we've been successful or not."

"But definitely, definitely, we will have at least a recorded message from Mr Modi making the same comments that he was going to make and so even though we may not have him in person, we will have him in will and faith," he said.

Patel said Modi had been scheduled to inaugurate the convention by "cutting the ribbon at our trade show and then he was going to make his speech and was going to hang around for the day. He had other meetings that were set up with the 20 industrialists he was bringing with him."

'Decision taken at the highest levels'

He said among those in the delegation were senior representatives from GM, Reliance Group, Shell Oil Group, British Oil company and others, who would talk about the infrastructure and stuff.

"So we had one good solid day planned with him, but unfortunately, the US government made a decision and that's between the two governments of the two countries," he said.

It's an issue of swabhimaan: Modi

He said that by some miracle, Modi could still make it, "we would just love to have him and we still stand 100 percent behind our invitation to him."

"If he shows up at 11 am at our convention on Thursday, he is more than welcome and we would love to hear what he has to say about the vibrant Gujarat and investments there," Patel added.

Speaking at the regular noon briefing on Monday, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said it was important to separate the visa denial to Modi 'entirely from the broader issue of US-India relations.

"Why? Because it's a specific case dealing with a specific visit. It has nothing to do with bilateral relationships. It has nothing to do with our close partnership and good friendship with India. It is a technical matter related to a visa application."

Ereli noted that 'for reasons I outlined last week, the visa that the chief minister applied for was not given because the purposes of his visit did not coincide with the type of visa that he was requesting. Also, an existing visa was revoked because under the terms of our law the person in question did not qualify for a visa, given the findings of Indian commissions in investigating actions or lack of actions by state institutions and religious conflict in Gujarat state.'

The spokesman implored not to 'make more of this decision than it is. It is not a reflection of our views of the government of Gujarat or the people of Gujarat or a reflection of our bilateral relations.'

Ereli argued, "On the contrary, what I will tell you is that we are deeply appreciative of the role that both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the (former) Vajpayee government have played in opening the way for positive transformation of US-Indian relations. And I would also convey the great respect the United States has for the many successful Gujaratis who live and work in the United States and the thousands who are issued visas to the United States each month.'

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by Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
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