After 10 years of boycott, European Union envoys willing to deal with Narendra Modi

Feb 09, 2013, 03:36 IST | Agencies

A quiet lunch between European Union ambassadors and Indian prime ministerial contender Narendra Modi has shattered what remained of a decade-old informal boycott of the Gujarat CM

Modi, the charismatic chief minister of Gujarat, is praised by corporate India and foreign investors for presiding over an economic boom in his state.

Narendra Modi

But charges he was complicit in riots in Gujarat that killed at least 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, have cast a shadow over his ambitions. Critics accuse him of not having done enough to stop the violence, allegations he has strenuously denied and have never been proven.

After the riots, he was shunned by Western governments. Washington denied him a visa and EU ambassadors in Delhi cold-shouldered him. However, in recent years the EU’s informal boycott had crumbled.
Sweden and Denmark decided it was better to engage with him than ostracise him and Britain’s ambassador met Modi in Gujarat last year.

Since being re-elected for a fourth successive term as chief minister in December, Modi has been on a seemingly unstoppable march towards becoming the BJP’s candidate for prime minister in elections due by May 2014.

EU ambassador Joao Cravinho said that Modi was a ‘major political figure’ and it was therefore important to listen to his views. Cravinho said the ambassadors had pressed Modi on the 2002 riots to find out “what went wrong, what should have happened, what the situation is now”. “We were pleased that he was able to tell us that because of a number of changes that he has introduced that such events could not be repeated in 2013,” Cravinho said, without elaborating on what those changes were.

German envoy to India Michael Steiner said they had full trust in India’s judicial system and its election results.“India is a democracy. We respect the democratic institutions, we respect election results in India and we have full trust in its judicial system,” Steiner said in a statement about Modi’s meeting with envoys of European countries. Government minister Manish Tewari of the Congress party tweeted: “EU says accountability for Gujarat pogrom must be fixed. Does buck not stop with their lunch guest?”

Nine students booked for anti-Modi protests
Nine students have been booked for breaking law and order during a protest against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at Delhi University's Shri Ram College of Commerce. The police resorted to lathi-charge and water cannons to disperse members of Left-wing students’ unions. They have been booked for unlawful activities during their protest outside SRCC, said a police officer. 

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