President Obama is hosting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House today for their first meeting since Modi’s election in May. On Sunday, Modi appeared before thousands of Indian Americans and dignitaries at New York City’s Madison Square Garden arena. Modi’s visit comes less than a decade after he was barred from the United States over his role in anti-Muslim riots that left more than 1,000 dead. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat, where the killings occurred. He has never apologized for or explained his actions at the time. At a counter-protest outside the arena, Prachi Patankar of the South Asia Solidarity Initiative criticized Modi’s visit.
Prachi Patankar: “As South Asians concerned for advancing basic standards of democracy and human rights in India and universally, we believe that it is our moral responsibility to refuse to go along with the Modi euphoria and continue to voice our concerns and criticisms of bigotry and violence. Not doing so not only justifies this bigotry, but normalizes the acceptance of hateful ideologies and future repressive policies.”
On the eve of Modi’s visit, a lawsuit was filed in a U.S. court seeking to hold him to account for the 2002 anti-Muslim riots. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said it would not interfere with the trip because of diplomatic immunity.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest: “Sitting heads of government enjoy immunity from lawsuits in American courts while in the United States. Sitting heads of government also enjoy personal inviability while in the United States, which means they cannot be personally handed or delivered papers to begin the process of a lawsuit. In addition, as a matter of treaty, the heads of delegations to the U.N. General Assembly enjoy immunity while in New York to attend U.N. events. So this means I don’t anticipate that it’s going to have any impact on his very important visit here to the U.S. and to the White House.”
On Saturday, Modi addressed tens of thousands of concertgoers attending the anti-poverty Global Citizen Concert in Central Park.