UK endorsing Gujarat, not Modi: British envoy
Mahesh Langa, Hindustan Times
Ahmedabad, October 22, 2012
First Published: 18:17 IST(22/10/2012)
Last Updated: 02:06 IST(23/10/2012)
Seeking to increase opportunities in business and trade with Gujarat, British High Commissioner Sir James Bevan who met Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other figures, sought to clarify that UK's decision is not to endorse any individual and the UK will continue to raise the issue of human rights and justice for three British nationals killed during 2002 riots.
British High Commissioner, James Bevan, speaks with Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, during a meeting in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Britain's top diplomat in India held talks with Narendra Modi, ending a 10-year boycott over religious riots in 2002 that left three Britons dead. (AFP Photo)
"We are engaging with Gujarat government so it does not mean we are endorsing an individual."
Following the 2002 riots in Gujarat, this was for the first time, British envoy in India held meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister, who was in 2005 denied diplomatic visa to visit London. The UK's refusal had forced Modi to cancel his proposed visit to London.
He said reengagement with Gujarat is in the interests of Britain. "It's not about engaging with one figure, but with Gujarat in general," he said during his interaction with media in Ahmedabad.
When asked about timing of UK's unexpected policy shift towards Gujarat and Modi just two months prior to the crucial assembly polls in Gujarat, he sought to explain that the decision was not meant to interfere in the electoral process in the state.
"We have taken no political position on Gujarat... Who runs Gujarat is a matter of the people of the state and I don't think the Gujarat voter is likely to be swayed by the fact that the British High Commissioner spent eight hours in Ahmedabad," he said.
The UK envoy was also non committal on whether the country would grant visa to Modi. "Mr Modi has not asked for a visa. If he asks for one, we will decide on merit," he said while responding to a query.
On justice to the family of three British nationals killed in 2002, Bevan stressed that he raised the issue during his meeting with Modi and officials of the state. "We will continue to raise the issue of human rights. I am told that the case of three UK citizens killed in riots is being heard in a court."
Stressing on the importance of Gujarat, which is one of the most industrialized states in the country, he said in last 10 years, Gujarat has grown in importance and that was one of the facts the UK had taken into account while considering to reengage with Gujarat authorities.
During his one day visit, he also met Gujarat Governor Dr Kamla, state Congress president Arjun Modhvadia and representatives of NGOs fighting for human rights protection of minorities in the state.