Lawmakers visit invite to barred Indian leader raises eyebrows


(Maryann Haggerty)

The delegation, led by Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and including GOP Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), met with the state’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, and invited him to visit the United States.

One small problem: Modi has been barred from entering this country since 2005, our colleague Rama Lakshmi reported, because of allegations by international human rights groups that he looked the other way while Hindu mobs killed more than 1,000 Muslims in 2002.

Modi’s economic policies, however, have attracted substantial foreign investment in Gujarat, Lakshmi reported, including General Motors and Ford. And Britain and other European nations in the past year have begun to reengage with him.

“We were impressed with what we have seen,” Shock told reporters March 28, “and we extended an invitation to [him] to come to the United States and share with our colleagues some of what he has done here.”

If the group was not impressed then, the overall itinerary, as reported in our copy of the Oman Daily Observer, surely would have sealed the deal. The 10-day jaunt — though McMorris Rodgers’s office e-mailed that she was there only 48 hours — included: “A stay at the Lake Palace in Udaipur ... a visit to the Taj Mahal, the tiger reserve at Ranthambore, a night at the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, [and] a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar.”

Modi had our support for a visa at the spectacular Lake Palace. But then the Observer said that a “Bollywood Extravaganza,” whatever that is, was also on tap. The trip was business-class travel, private air charter in India.

Okay. Stay calm. Taxpayers did not pay for trip. It was sponsored by the Chicago-based National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI) and included several Indian American businessmen, according to a report by Hi India, a Chicago weekly that obtained a copy of NIAPPI’s invitation.

Shock told reporters that he had “checked the appropriate boxes necessary to make this trip legitimate and well within all the rules and accordances of the U.S. Congress,” he said, and the “trip was signed off by the appropriate authorities in our government.”

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.

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