British envoy meets Narendra Modi, says it is engagement, not endorsement
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Signalling a formal end to Britain's 10-year-long boycott of Gujarat, High Comissioner James Bevan met Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at Gandhinagar on Monday.
Britain however stressed that the decision to "re-engage" with Gujarat was taken in the national interest of UK and should not be seen as an "endorsement" of any individual.
Britain had decided to boycott Modi after the riots of 2002 in which about 1,000 people, including three Britons of Gujarati origin, were killed. Earlier this month however, the British government announced a change in policy.
"This is engagement with Gujarat and Gujarat as a whole, and not an engagement with any individual," Bevan told mediapersons in Ahmedabad after his meeting. "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 the state and Mr Modi is the democratically elected leader of Gujarat."
Asked about the timing of Britain's decision just ahead of the polls, Bevan said, "I sought to make it clear that we are not taking a political position on the election in Gujarat... Who runs Gujarat is a matter of the people of the state. Frankly, I feel the Gujarati voter was unlikely to be swayed in his or her decision... considering that the High Commissioner has spent eight hours in Ahmedabad."
Asked about human rights violations in Gujarat, Bevan said they considered the issue important but "engaging with Gujarat" was a step in the right direction not only for pending human rights issues, but also "the right way to advance UK's interest in the state".
He also pointed out that with a former minister, Maya Kodnani, having been convicted, justice seems to be under process.
Regarding the pending case of the killing of three British citizens during the riots, the High Commissioner said, "I reaffirmed the British government's wish to ensure justice for the families of the three British citizens."
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