A series of backroom parleys between Western diplomats and Gujarat government officials preceded the UK’s announcement on Thursday to end chief minister Narendra Modi’s isolation by London since the 2002 riots, sources said.
As it comes ahead of the assembly polls in December, Modi has welcomed the development, indicating that it’s “further proof” that Gujarat’s “success story as investment decision” cannot be ignored.
British diplomats engaged Gujarat officials in discussing the issue after their foreign office noticed envoys of other western countries were “queuing up” to call on Modi after he began to show interest in China and Japan, official sources said.
The envoys who had been meeting Modi include those from Australia, Denmark, Switzerland, France and also South Korea. In turn, Modi asked his officials to conduct road shows in these countries to promote Gujarat’s “investor-friendly schemes.”
British interlocutors conveyed to Gujarat officials that London too was keen to encourage UK firms to come to the state but they would have to “appear” to strike a balance between their “trade” interests and “human rights” concerns.
Hence, any announcement about resumption of trade links with Gujarat would also have to show that the UK foreign office was pursuing the cases of Britons of Gujarat origin listed missing since the 2002 riots.
Modi apparently conveyed through his aides that his government was equally serious pursuing the matter and was doing its best.
Consequently, the UK, which is passing through hard economic times, sought to balance its commercial interests with the issue of 2002 riots. It said, “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.” Three British citizens had died in the riots.
Since the riots, British officials were told to avoid dealing directly with Modi. Modi had faced protests during his 2003 UK visit.
By engaging with Modi’s administration, the UK foreign office said “(the UK government’s decision) will allow us to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest and to explore opportunities for closer cooperation.” The British High Commissioner to India has now been asked to meet Modi in Gandhinagar. So far, the UK has had no senior officials in Gandhinagar unlike in other states.
Modi had visited China last November and Japan last July where several MoUs were signed.