23/07/2016 4:34 PM IST | Updated 23/07/2016 4:46 PM IST

Bush White House Was Against Denying Visa To Narendra Modi: Ex-Official

In 2005, the State Department had revoked Modi's visa for alleged human rights violations during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

Yuri Gripas / Reuters
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks at the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) 41st annual Leadership Summit in Washington, U.S., June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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 in US 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.

Yates, who is likely to be involved in the foreign policy and national security team of the Trump campaign, said India is one of the few countries on which the GOP platform is very positive.

He was one of the co-chairs of the national security section of the platform.

"The (platform) language very clearly identifies India as a strategic partner, ally in common causes on global and regional issues," he said, adding that during the Bush Administration there was an effort to revisit the strategic relationship with India.

The non-proliferation lobby in the government, saw India through old lenses and opposed it.

"We made some progress (in the Bush Administration). This platform is an step well beyond that. It makes clear that we have a challenging relationship with Pakistan. We must continue to have a relationship (with Pakistan) given the danger it poses to both India and the United States," he said.

"I am hopeful that this new administration of Trump and Pence would seize on this and would see as an opportunity to improve strategic relationship with the Government of India," Yates added.