Ahmedabad: Seven years after the UK declared that it was 'maintaining no relationship' with Gujarat government over the 2002 post-Godhra riots, there appears to be a diplomatic coup for state Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In a U-turn, the British government has now decided that it will enhance its engagement with Gujarat.
As part of the planned active engagement, the State Foreign Office of Britain has asked High Commissioner James Bevan to visit Gujarat and discuss issues of mutual interest with state government. Modi has also been quick to welcome the policy, which will also be welcomed by the influential 600,000 strong Gujarati community in Britain. Interestingly, this has come just ahead of the Assembly elections in Gujarat.
Hugo Swire, Britain's Minister of State Foreign Office, said, "I have asked the British High Commissioner in New Delhi to visit Gujarat and to meet the Chief Minister. 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."
"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. 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," Swire said.
This comes almost a decade after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader had during his UK visit in 2003 faced protests over the killing of two British nationals during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The same year, taking strong cognisance of the killings, the British High Commission had also prepared a report on the British nationals who were killed.
The situation turned worse in 2005 when the Gujarat Chief Minister had to call off his visit to UK at the last minute citing security risks. Also, the US, a close ally of the UK, had denied visa to Modi.
Now in 2012, Britain is trying to reach out to Modi following recent praise from America for the Gujarat Chief Minister. Notably, earlier in 2012, Time magazine had praised Modi's leadership and even carried his photograph on its cover page.