Dr Akshay Desai is one of the hosts for an event in Florida featuring Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He is also close to Florida Governor Jeb Bush, US President George W Bush's younger brother. He was recently appointed a Commissioner, White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a tribute to his proximity to the Bush family and his prominence in the Indian-American community.
This is the letter Dr Desai wrote on Friday to Karl Rove, President Bush's closest political adviser and his deputy chief of staff, to protest against the denial of a US visa to Modi, which we reproduce verbatim.
March 18, 2005
Mr Karl Rove
Deputy Chief of Staff
Senior Political Advisor
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20502
RE: Denial of Diplomatic Visa and Revocation of Visitor's Visa for the Honorable Chief Minister of Gujarat (one of the largest and richest state in India), Mr Narendra Modi
I am writing this to request your prompt attention on this issue for a timely remedy to avoid significant political and diplomatic damage concerning US-India relations.
It is my understanding that a routine request for a diplomatic visa for Mr Narendra Modi, the Honorable Chief Minister of Gujarat, has been denied on the basis of section 212 (a)(2)(G) which 'requires to find the applicant ineligible for admission to the United States any foreign government official who has at any time been responsible for a particularly serious violation of another's religious freedom'.
I have been contacted by many shocked Indian American community leaders from all across the USA, and on their behalf I am bringing the following facts to your attention. Mr Modi is a democratically elected head of Gujarat state and has never been convicted of any crimes in any court. There was a systematic 'smear campaign' carried out by his opponents. Mr Modi is a Hindu by religion and has been accused by some Muslim organizations of being anti-Muslim. As you know, India has over 800 millions practicing Hindus and the previous Hindu-dominated BJP government of India and its leaders were and are very close to our administration.
The Indian American community in the USA is also predominantly Hindu and would feel humiliated. Mr Modi was coming to the USA to address the convention of Indian American hotel/motel owners, and they all feel saddened by this decision.
In America, we have a tradition of not acting on just 'wild accusations' but only on hard facts, and 'innocent until proven guilty in court', for our proper course of action on any matter. There are examples of several other currently serving world leaders who have been accused of more egregious crimes, war crimes, and violations of human rights; but were allowed to visit the USA and have been welcome at the White House also.
I request you to look into this, review the facts, and then our administration should arrive at the right decision to avoid any potential setback in US-India relations.
Thanking you for your prompt attention.
Akshay M Desai, MD MPH
President & CEO
Universal Health Care
Commissioner, White House Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific