India Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given the same level of protection from prosecution in the US that was recently accorded to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a US State Department spokesperson said in a briefing on Friday.
“This is not the first time that the United States has done this. It is a longstanding and consistent line of effort. It has been applied to a number of heads of state previously,” said US State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel when asked about the gruesome murder of writer Jamal Khashoggi, in which the crown prince is a suspect.
“It is a longstanding and consistent line of effort. It has been applied to a number of heads of state previously. Some examples: President Aristide in Haiti in 1993, President Mugabe in Zimbabwe in 2001, Prime Minister Modi in India in 2014, and President Kabila in the DRC in 2018. This is a consistent practice that we have afforded to heads of state, heads of government, and foreign ministers,” he said.
In 2005, the US denied Modi a diplomatic visa and revoked his existing tourist/business visa under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which makes a foreign government official who is responsible for particularly severe violations of religious freedom ineligible for an American visa, the NYT said.
This was due to allegations that his government did nothing to stop the 2002 riots in Gujarat as Chief Minister.
However, this year, India’s Supreme Court upheld the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the 2002 riots in the state and dismissed a plea by slain Congress leader Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri.
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, leading to the arrest of a number of senior Saudi officials in connection with the case.
According to a US declassified report, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince approved an operation in Istanbul to capture or kill Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, who was a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, was killed on October 2, 2018, in Turkey where he had gone to obtain paperwork certifying his divorce from his former wife Alaa Nassif in order to be able to marry his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz.
His killing had brought international outrage and battered the reputation of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman.