|Date: 19 Feb 2005|
Source: Garavi Gujarat
GUJARAT Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States in March to attend a convention of Asian hoteliers has sparked off a row, with some activists petitioning to the Bush administration to deny him a visa.
The proposed Modi visit comes on the back of an invitation extended to him by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA). The decision has also divided the organization, with some members arguing that it was a bad move to invite such a controversial figure in the first place. AAHOA, which is dominated by Gujaratis, represents around 60 per cent of the budget and mid-sized hotels in the US.
According to M P Rama, AAHOA`s vice-chairman, the organization had invited Modi from a business perspective, given his interest in inviting foreign investment and interest among AAHOA members in investing in Gujarat.
‘When we invite a speaker we don`t go by political or religious affiliation. We look at how our members might benefit. Most of our members, perhaps up to 95 per cent are Gujaratis and they would like to hear first hand from the chief minister whether the state will offer us red tape or red carpet," Rama said.
However, some AAHOA members, who did not want to go on record, expressed reservations about the invitation to Modi. One member pointed out that AAHOA was born out of a sense of discrimination Asian hoteliers faced in the United States. The organization should not do anything to dilute its mission statement, he said.
Opposing the visit, The Institute on Religion and Public Policy, a Washington-based group for religious freedom, is petitioning the State Department to deny Modi entry to the US. The group is circulating a letter among prominent individuals and rights groups, asking them to oppose the Modi visit and is sending a representation to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday.
Meanwhile, Modi has accepted the invitation and is listed as the marquee speaker. Other keynote speakers at the event are the spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, MSNBC`s Hardball host Chris Mathews and conservative commentator Dinesh D`Souza.