Following the British government’s unexpected shift in its policy on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, UK high commissioner to India James Bevan is scheduled to call on Modi on October 22.
The meeting between the high commissioner and the chief minister will mark the resumption of diplomatic dialogue after the 2002 anti minority communal riots in the state in which three British PIO (Person of Indian Origin) were killed.
“High commissioner will be calling on the chief minister and also be meeting the senior officials. It’s a curtsey visit and during the meeting, the two dignitaries will be discussing a range of mutual issues like trade, business, industries and investment,” Gujarat chief secretary AK Joti said.
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 their diplomatic ties with Gujarat following the riots. His international isolation is seen as one of the main impediments to his national ambition.