Australia on Friday extended an invitation to Narendra Modi the controversial Chief Minister of the Indian state of Gujarat. A statement issued by the Gujarat government said that Australian High Commissioner to India Patrick Suckling met Modi in Gandhinagar and invited him to visit Australia.
The Australian invitation is a step further in the international rehabilitation of Modi who for over a decade now has been a pariah after his state saw one of India's worst Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002.
Failing to Stop Violence
Modi is accused of failing to stop the 2002 riots after reports that 54 Hindu pilgrims had been killed when Muslims set fire to their train at Godhra. According to the official figures, the riots resulted in the deaths of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus. It left 2,500 people injured and 223 missing. However NGOs and activists have estimated that the over 2000 Muslims died in the violence.
The Australian invite comes two days after British MPs invited him speak at Westminster on his vision for India's future.
Seeking International Acceptance
Modi has been tipped as a potential prime minister candidate of the right wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). Since his elevation as the head of the BJP election campaign committee in June 2013, party officials have been making all out efforts to find him acceptance within India and aboard.
In July his party president Rajnath Singh took up the issue with US lawmakers in Washington where he appealed to the US to clear the visa for Modi. The BJP has been critical of the US stand denying visa to "democratically elected popular leader".
"They will have to do it one day, if not now. If they do it now, it will be better," Singh said while addressing a community reception hosted by Overseas Friends of BJP (OF-BJP) in New Jersey.
Although their Government's position remains unchanged, US businesses have been praising the Gujarat leader for his business and investor friendly government. In March 2013, a US business delegation led by three Republican lawmakers met Narendra Modi and invited him to America. They promised to work towards getting him a visa. One of them raised the matter at a Congressional hearing subsequently.
US Position Unchanged
However even as Australia invited Modi; the US has stuck to its position of visa denial. Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chairwoman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom pointed out that Modi will not be granted the privilege of US visa because of the "very serious doubts that remain" over his role in the horrific events of 2002 in Gujarat.
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