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US lawmaker, a long-time Modi pursuer, faces new reality

world Updated: Jul 23, 2014 19:29 IST
Yashwant Raj
Joe Pitts

A Republican lawmaker who has been a leading advocate of denying Narendra Modi a visa in the past, appears reconciled to the Prime Minister’s coming visit.

“He is the elected leader of the country so I think we have to have him here in the country if he wishes to come,” Congressman Joe Pitts said in a brief interview.

But he hasn’t given up. “We will appeal to him to be more sensitive to human rights and rights of minorities in his administration,” he added.

Modi is coming to DC at President Barack Obama’s invitation, on his way back from the UN General Assembly meetings from New York. Pitts can’t change that.

And his fellow lawmakers — from both parties — want Modi to address a joint session of US congress, and have appealed to their respective leaders to send him an invitation.

He can’t change that either.

Pitts, a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, cosponsored a resolution introduced in the House in March 2005 condemning Modi over Gujarat.

Days after the state department denied Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, an official visa to visit the United States and revoked a business/tourist visa he already held.

That resolution — which Pitts cosponsored with John Conyers, a Democratic member of the House from Michigan — never passed, but took on an afterlife.

Pitts then introduced a resolution in 2013 commending the US government for denying Modi a visa, a cause with waning support in his own party at the time.

Asked about the move to invite Modi to address a joint session of US congress, Pitts said, “If he comes, if he is invited, I will be respectful, (I) will listen to him.”

“But,” he added, “We will appeal to him privately as well about the issue of human rights.” It was not clear how he will do that privately unless he has sought a meeting.

Pitts’s views on Gujarat stem from a visit in 2002 with another Republican congressman, Frank Wolf.

“I visited Gujarat in 2002 and went to the home of the parliamentarian (Ehsan) Jafri where 75 women and children fled for refuge,” Pitts said, adding, “And, I saw, blood splattered on the walls. It was just horrific.

“What happened to those people, even the parliamentarian? And there was really no justice after that.”

Lawmakers want Modi
Over 80 US lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, have appealed to their leadership to invite Prime Minister Modi to address a joint session of congress.

This effort is led by Democrats Brad Sherman and Eni Faleomavaega and Republican Ted Poe, and runs parallel to a move initiated by Republican Ed Royce.

“I am pleased that 82 of my colleagues have joined me in this effort to invite Prime Minister Modi to speak before a Joint Session of Congress,” said Sherman in a statement on Tuesday.