Modi inches closer to the West as Britain says things in "right direction"

Priya sundarajan | | Updated on: Mar 20, 2013
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Short of extending a formal invitation to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to visit London, Britain on Wednesday said that things are moving in a “right direction” and clarified that the issue of who would be the next Prime Minister of India was for the country’s people to decide.

“No one knows who will be India’s next PM,” a visiting British Minister said here.

Modi is being treated as a persona non-grata by the West on the issue of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat, the latest snub being at Wharton. Britain was also shunning Modi, particularly after some British nationals of North Gujarat origin died in the riots 11 years ago while visiting their native place.

But the astute Chief Minister has, off and on, managed to address foreigners, especially Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), through social networking media and video-conferencing. Looking at his popularity charts, the West has, of late, started re-engaging him. British High Commissioner to India James Biven had met Modi in October 2012, and his country had participated in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in January 2013.

As a follow up to it, British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office Hugo Swire called on Modi in Gandhinagar on Wednesday. Later, he told a group of select journalists here that Britain was targeting to double its trade with India by 2015. “Mr Modi said he is keen to attract British expertise in energy, training skills, education and infrastructure.”

Replying to questions, Swire said that Gujarat is an “extremely exciting state where the administration wants to deliver. Gujarat has done commendable work in renewable energy.”

Asked about the riots and the issue of a visa to Modi, he said “nothing should be seen from an extreme position. We should see the things in a proportionate manner.”

“Relations are evolving at a higher pace,” he added.

About the British-India economic relations, he said, “we want to engage with India in the trade sector. Besides Gujarat, States such as Maharashtra and Karnataka are also evolving. The Mumbai-Bangalore Corridors cover these States.”

On the Indo-Italian tiff over the mariners’ issue, Swire regretted the incident and said the two countries should amicably settle it.

Later, in a statement, Swire welcomed the multi-billion dollar Gujarat Gas deal and the 20-year agreement reached today between BG Group and GSPC for supply of LNG, as a follow up to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent visit to India recently.

Swire is the first British Minister to visit Gujarat since November 2000. His visit came five months after the British Government’s decision in October 2012 to re-engage with the senior political leadership of Gujarat. During his meeting with Modi, he discussed a wide range of issues of mutual interest, including human rights.

He described his Gujarat visit as “the logical next step since our decision to re-engage with the democratically elected leadership of this important state. I am confident that active engagement is the best way to pursue British interests in Gujarat. This includes support for the British nationals in Gujarat, for the large Gujarati community in the UK, for human rights and good governance

He will visit Delhi on Thursday to meet senior Indian government Ministers to discuss trade opportunities and other areas of potential co-operation.

Published on March 12, 2018

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