Not endorsing any individual by re-engaging with Gujarat: UK

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi presents a memento to British High Commissioner to India, James Bevan, during a meeting in Gandhinagar

AHMEDABAD: Britain has said the decision to re-engage with Gujarat was taken in its national interest and it should not be seen as an endorsement of any individual.
British High Commissioner to India James Bevan met Chief Minister Narendra Modi, ending the 10-year boycott of the state over the 2002 Gujarat riots and discussed ways to take forward the relations.
Bevan said after the meeting that active engagement with Gujarat was the right way to advance UK’s interest in the state.
“This is engagement with Gujarat and Gujarat as a whole and not an engagement with any individual,” Bevan said.
“I don’t agree with your perception that we are rehabilitating Mr Modi, this engagement is not about endorsement. If we need to engage with some state, we need to engage with the Chief Minister of state and Mr Modi is democratically elected leader of Gujarat,” he said.
Bevan was asked what UK government stood to gain from “rehabilitating” the Gujarat Chief Minister.
Britain had snapped all ties with Gujarat in the aftermath of the 2002 communal riots. The British High Commissioner interacted with Modi for about 50 minutes, discussing a range of issues, including climate change and investment.
In a reply to a question on whether UK will now grant visa to Modi, Bevan said, “This is a hypothetical question as Modi has not applied for any visa. We deal with the visa issue when it comes up on case to case basis”.
Though the decision to re-engage with Modi comes just ahead of the legislative assembly elections, Bevan sought to dispel the notion that it would have any effect on the outcome of the polls.
“We have no intentions of interfering in any way in the election which is taking place in Gujarat. Who runs Gujarat is the matter for people of Gujarat to decide. And frankly I think that Gujarat voters are unlikely to be swayed in his or her decision whom to vote for on the basis of a visit of eight hours by the British High Commissioner,” he said.
Explaining the rationale behind the decision, Bevan said, “2002 was 10 years ago and in those 10 years many important things have happened. The British government that was elected in 2010 took a decision to deepen and strengthen its relations with India. And if you want to do that you can’t ignore one of the most important states in India, which is Gujarat.
“Also, in those 10 years, state of Gujarat has grown to became more prosperous and more successful. There are very large number of Gujaratis living now in UK, and Gujarat over the 10 years has become more important to UK,” he said.-PTI

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