Germany, EU willing to deal with Modi, signals envoy (Third Lead)

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 08, 2013 18:00 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) Signalling European Union's (EU) change of policy towards Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over the 2002 riots in the state, Germany's envoy to India Michael Steiner Friday said they were "now in a new phase" because of continued trust in India's judicial and electoral system.

Steiner, who met Modi over lunch Jan 7 along with ambassadors of other EU countries, told reporters that he had always maintained that Germany had no intention of interfering in Gujarat assembly elections and it will take a fresh look after the election results.

"That is exactly what we were doing and part of it is to talk directly to Chief Minister Modi. India is a democracy. We respect the democratic institutions. We respect election results in India and we have full trust in its judicial system. Because of this respect and trust, we are now in a new phase," the German ambassador said.

Modi had driven to Germany embassy for the lunch in a signal that more and more western countries were willing to engage with him and accept him as an emerging leader.

The meeting was the first that European envoys held with Modi since the 2002 riots, sources said. It came after British High Commissioner Sir James Bevan met Modi in Gandhinagar in October last year, ending a 10-year boycott.

The meeting had gone unpublicised almost for a month.

Sources said EU ambassadors had resolved to break diplomatic contacts with the Modi government following the 2002 riots. Western governments had not been engaging with Modi after the riots and he was denied a visa by the United States.

The sources said Modi told the envoys that everything should be done to avoid such unfortunate incidents.

EU Ambassador to India Joao Cravinho told a newspaper recently that Modi had lunch with the EU envoys in January to discuss what happened in 2002, the judicial process, accountability for the riots, development process in Gujarat and his election victory.

He indicated that the EU could engage Modi officially and referred to a verdict having been delivered in a riots case.

He also said justice in India might be slow but it produced results.

Sources said the meeting came amid the rise in Modi's political stature within the BJP following his third successive victory in the state assembly polls and demands from sections of the party that he should be declared as its prime ministerial candidate.

They said convictions in 2002 riots cases, including that of former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani, also helped strengthen the impression that the cases were going to their logical conclusion in the state.

Meanwhile, BJP's overseas affairs convener Vijay Jolly Friday objected to Cravinho's reported remarks about accountability for Gujarat riots in relation to Modi's meeting with the EU's envoys.

"The BJP's unhappiness has been conveyed to the EU ambassador. The BJP has objected to his uncalled for statement. It tantamounts to interference in internal affairs of India. We disapprove of the provocative, suggestive and accusatory remarks by the EU's ambassador to India," Jolly said.

Modi was re-elected the chief minister for a third successive term December last.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari Friday asked Modi to take responsibility for the 2002 riots.

He added that foreign diplomats subjected India to "homilies over the riots" that took place when he was the chief minister.

Responding to queries about Modi's meeting with EU envoys and reports that he faced some tough questions, Tewari said: "I wonder why the chief minister of Gujarat does not stand up and take responsibility."

He said the riots had taken place "under his (Modi's) watch".

"I think there is certain ignominy attached to it (the homilies)," Tewari said.

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