Modi re-engagement not endorsement: UK

Last Updated: Mon, Oct 22, 2012 21:48 hrs

British High Commissioner to India James Bevan on Monday said that his meeting with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should not be seen as an endorsement of any person, but an a re-engagement of ties with the west-Indian state.

The comment came after certain media outlets portrayed Britain's efforts to reinstate ties with Gujarat as sign that it expected or even perhaps favoured Modi, the probable Prime Ministerial candidate of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the 2014 elections.

"We want to support British nationals travelling and working in Gujarat and Gujaratis in UK. Talks with the Gujarat government were open and positive. We discussed how UK can play a role in development in Gujarat," Bevan said.

"We can´t ignore Gujarat when Britain wants stronger ties with India. We want to actively engage with Modi government," he added.

Bevan's meeting with Modi was taken as a step to normalise Britain´s relationship with Gujarat, a state where the state administration was blamed for much of the fallout of the 2002 anti-Muslim riots.

Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire earlier this month asked the British High Commissioner in New Delhi to visit the Indian state and meet Modi and other senior officials in the state in order to discuss wide range of issues of mutual interest.

"This will allow us 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," Swire said in a press release.

"The UK has a broad range of interests in Gujarat. 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," he said.

Modi welcomed the step and tweeted: "Der Aaye Durasta Aaye!! I welcome UK Govt´s step for active engagement & strengthening relations with Guj. God is Great."

According to reports, protests occurred in UK during Modi´s visit to the country in 2003 due to his alleged role in the 2002 riots in the state.

He was denied a visa to visit UK in 2005.

The infamous Gujarat riots of 2002 left hundreds of Muslims dead, injured and tortured and came as a blot in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule in the state.

The riots followed an incident of train burning in Godhra in which Hindus returning from Ayodhya were killed by a Muslim mob.

Around 1,000 supporters of prime accused Maulvi Umarjihad attacked the coach at the Godhra station and torched it killing 59 people and injuring many.

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