The Bush White House was against denying a US visa to the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2005, according to a former senior administration official who worked on the national security staff of the then Vice President Dick Cheney.
“I do not believe anyone in (the George W Bush) White House spoke in favour of it (denying visa to Modi),” Stephen Yates, who served as the Deputy National Security Advisor to Cheney, told a group of Indian reporters here on Thursday.
“Yes,” said the chairman of Idaho Republican Party when asked if the Bush White House was opposed to denying a visa to Modi.
“At the same time, no one in the White House of sufficient rank, saw fit to get involved in that decision making process,” Yates said in response to a question as to why a Republican administration denied a US visa to Modi, with whom it now wants to build a strong relationship.
In 2005, the State Department had revoked a visa that Modi had for travelling to the US on the ground of alleged human rights violations during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
“The State Department had their ban and frankly a lot of us in the White House felt it was inappropriate,” said Yates, who was part of the Republican Platform Subcommittee on foreign affairs.
The platform approved by Republican National Committee in Cleveland on Monday describes India as a “geopolitical ally”.
“India is our geopolitical ally and a strategic trading partner. The dynamism of its people and the endurance of their democratic institutions are earning their country a position of leadership not only in Asia but throughout the world,” said the platform, which is similar to an election manifesto.
Explaining the reason for the White House not intervening in the decision taken by the State Department at a much lower level, Yates said it is “very rare” for the President or the Vice President to “weigh in” and say that someone below the rank of Head of State should be handled in a particular way.
“As you might know, between the time frame of 2003 and the rest of the administration there was a significant distraction in other part of the world where they were spending almost all of their time that was going to keep them from dealing with this kind of matter, which is why lower level officials at the State Department could basically do, which was unquestioned in some way with impunity,” Yates said.
Subsequently, Yates served in the senior positions in the Mitt Romney campaign and that of Newt Gingrich in 2012 when he was running for president.