In a major shift in its policy towards Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office has said that the British High Commissioner in New Delhi will visit Gujarat to meet the Chief Minister and other senior figures in the state, to discuss how to take forward the country’s relationship with Gujarat.
The UK had cut off ties with Modi and the state of Gujarat following the 2002 riots.
A statement issued in this regard, said that the move would allow the UK 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 went on to note that the UK had “a broad range of interests in Gujarat.”
However, the 2002 riots were still alluded to in the statement, which read, “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.”
The news was welcomed by an elated Narendra Modi who tweeted,
Der Aaye Durasta Aaye!! I welcome UK Govt’s step for active engagement & strengthening relations with Guj. God is Great nm4.in/T7QvZ8
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) अक्टूबर 11, 2012
Modi’s official site said that the UK move was recognition of “the progress Gujarat has made in the past 11 years under the leadership of Shri Modi”. It also noted that the “Chief Minister is already extremely popular among the British-Gujarati diaspora.”
Modi has not visited Britain since 2003.
The Ministry of External Affairs has welcomed the move, while British MP Lord Bhikhu Parekh said that the move was a recognition by the UK that it couldn’t hope to trade with India while leaving Gujarat out.