- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

Modi loses review

The U.S. ambassador to India yesterday said the State Department reaffirmed its decision to deny a diplomatic visa to an Indian official who failed to stop a massacre of Muslims three years ago.

Ambassador David C. Mulford told reporters that the decision applies only to Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, where more than 1,200 Muslims were killed by Hindu rioters from February to May 2002.

The Indian foreign ministry last week asked the State Department to review its decision Friday to bar Mr. Modi from attending a conference of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association that begins Thursday in Florida. The department also revoked his tourist/business visa issued before the riots.

Mr. Mulford cited U.S. immigration law that bars any government official “responsible for … particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

He also referred to an investigation by the Indian National Human Rights Commission that faulted Mr. Modi’s government for a “comprehensive failure … to control the persistent violation of rights of life, liberty, equality and dignity of the people” of Gujarat.

“This decision applies to Mr. Narendra Modi only,” Mr. Mulford said, adding that the United States values its relations with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist party to which Mr. Modi belongs. He also said the State Department action was not intended to insult citizens of Gujarat.

“The United States is deeply appreciative of the role that the BJP and the [Indian] government in particular played in opening the way for the positive transformation of U.S.-Indian relations,” he said.

“I would note also 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.”

Muslim democracy

A Moroccan scholar insisted that Islam is compatible with democracy and predicted that more elections will promote civil rights in Muslim countries, even among those suspicious of self-government.

“Little by little, groups that once opposed democracy are now defenders of democracy,” Mokhtar Benabdallaoui told an audience at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty last week.

However, he warned that “democracy cannot succeed in these countries if Islamists don’t participate.” He referred to “Islamists” as orthodox Muslims who believe that the Koran recognizes only an “Islamic nation without borders or nationality where citizenship is based on religion.”

Mr. Benabdallaoui, a professor at Casablanca’s Hassan II University, called on Middle Eastern governments to include Islamists in a “manner that does not threaten” them.

“If forced to choose between religion and politics, they will choose Islam,” he said.

Mr. Benabdallaoui praised the elections in Iraq.

“It was not merely that the Islamic political party won the national parliamentary election that was significant, but that the U.S. accepted the results as legitimate,” he said.

Still top diplomat

Thomas R. Pickering, who was one of America’s most senior diplomats, is the new chairman of the board of directors of the American Academy of Diplomacy.

He succeeds the late Joseph J. Sisco.

The prestigious position is the latest in a long line of diplomatic appointments for Mr. Pickering, senior vice president for international relations at the Boeing Co.

Before joining the aircraft firm, he was undersecretary of state for political affairs. He attained the rank of career ambassador, the highest honor in the U.S. Foreign Service, after stints as ambassador to Russia, India, Israel, El Salvador, Nigeria and Jordan. He also served in Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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