British High Commissioner James Bevan met Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in Gandhinagar on Monday, ending a 10-year boycott imposed after the riots in the state in 2002.
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)
Officials said Modi and Bevan met for almost 50 minutes and talked about investment, industry and trade between Gujarat and Britain. Bevan also met Gujarat Governor Dr Kamla Beniwal and will talk to the media at 5 pm in Ahmedabad.
This is the first that a British diplomat is visiting Gujarat to meet Modi after the 2002 riots in which three British nationals of Indian origin were killed. On October 11, the UK foreign and commonwealth office had issued a statement saying the move is meant to "discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest and to explore opportunities for closer cooperation, in line with the British Government's stated objective of improving bilateral relations with India."
The statement underlined that the UK had "a broad range of interests in Gujarat.
The statement had also touched upon the 2002 riots saying, "We want to secure justice for the families of the British nationals who were killed in 2002. We want to support human rights and good governance in the state. We also want to provide the best possible support for British nationals who live in, work in or visit Gujarat; and to the many Gujaratis who now make up one of the most successful and dynamic communities in the UK."
Following the 2002 riots, UK had refused to grant diplomatic visa to Modi in 2005, forcing him to cancel his proposed UK visit. Civil society groups and activists had approached a local court in London to get an arrest warrant issued against Modi in case he landed there on personal visa.
The UK's unexpected policy move to cozy up with controversial chief minister was criticized in a strongly worded editorial in leading British daily the Financial Times, which also questioned timing of the UK decision, which came ahead of the Gujarat assembly polls.
"His majority could be enhanced by his new-found international acceptance. Recognition may also boost his chances for India's national elections in 2014, where he is being cited as a possible prime minister. Mr Modi is now a far more serious contender than he would have been had he still been shunned internationally," the paper noted in its editorial.
The European Union and the US have cut off diplomatic ties with Gujarat following the riots. Modi's international isolation is seen as an obstacle to his national ambition.