Gandhinagar/New Delhi, Oct 22: Marking the end of the decade-long no-contact policy with Gujarat after the 2002 riots, Britain’s envoy to India Monday met Chief Minister Narendra Modi and discussed new opportunities for collaboration. The BJP hailed the change in Britain’s stand towards the “vibrant and growing” state.
British High Commissioner James Bevan met Modi in Gandhinagar with a small delegation for around 50 minutes, official sources said in New Delhi. The meeting came at a time when political parties in Gujarat are geared for the state assembly polls in December.
Bevan also met Governor Kamla Beniwal.
Modi was quick to welcome the decision of British Prime Minister David Cameron to bolster relations with Gujarat.
“During the meeting, Modi, keeping in mind the large number of Gujarat origin people living in UK, urged him to start an office of deputy British high commission in Gujarat,” said an official statement by the state government.
Modi also invited the British government to participate in ‘Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit’, his flagship project to spur state’s industrialisation, to be held in January 2013.
“The envoy has accepted the invitation,” it said.
On Oct 11, Britain announced its decision to end its no official contact policy.
In a press statement, Hugo Swire, the new British minister in charge of India, asked the high commissioner to visit Gujarat and meet Modi and his senior cabinet colleagues.
“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.
“Der Aaye Durasta Aaye!! I welcome UK Govt’s step for active engagement & strengthening relations with Guj. God is Great,” Modi had tweeted in response.
Britain’s turnaround comes a decade after the 2002 Gujarat riots, in which three Britons were killed.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said Bevan’s meeting with Modi was a review of Britain’s stand towards the “vibrant” and growing state and there was no isolation of the party leader.
“It was not an isolation at all. Modi has visited countries like China and Japan,” she said, adding some countries, under the influence of certain vested interests, had adopted a visa policy against him.
Party leaders said Britain appeared to be relooking at its visa policy vis-a-vis Modi.
They said Britain’s decision may also have been influenced by the court rulings in riot cases. They admitted admitted that British move could also be a result of Modi’s growing stature within BJP and his posssible shift to national politics after the Gujarat polls.