Britain to end 10-year boycott of Indian politician

Britain’s top diplomat in India will on Monday hold talks with the chief minister of Gujarat state, ending a 10-year boycott over religious riots in 2002 that left three Britons dead.

By (AFP)

Published: Mon 22 Oct 2012, 11:46 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 1:23 PM

Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist who is tipped as a possible future prime minister, came to power shortly before the riots in Gujarat and is accused of doing little to prevent India’s worst religious violence since independence.

After the riots, British officials were banned from dealing directly with Modi but the government this month changed its policy and said High Commissioner (ambassador) James Bevan would travel to Gujarat.

‘The High Commissioner will hold talks in Ahmedabad with senior politicians including Mr. Modi, and will also meet with British firms who have infrastructure projects in the state,’ a British embassy spokesman told AFP.

The riots in 2002 were triggered by the deaths of nearly 60 Hindu pilgrims in a train fire that was initially blamed on a mob of Muslims.

Modi is accused of failing to halt the orgy of revenge that left more than 2,000 people — mainly Muslims — dead, according to rights groups. The government figures put the death toll at about 1,000.

Among the dead were three British nationals — Saeed Dawood, Mohammed Aswat Nallabhai and Shakil Dawood — who were burnt to death in Sabarkantha district of the western Indian state.

When Britain announced it would end the boycott, junior foreign minister Hugo Swire said the British envoy would discuss a ‘wide range of issues of mutual interests’.

‘We want to support human rights and good governance in the state,’ Swire added.

Modi, a senior leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, denies any misconduct over the riots. But he has struggled to shake off the allegations, and the United States has refused to grant him a visa since 2005.

Despite the scars of the sectarian violence, Gujarat in recent years has lured foreign firms with its reliable power supply, good infrastructure by Indian standards, and the availability of educated but cheap labour.

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