Britain ends boycott of Gujarat leader Narendra Modi over 2002 riots

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 3:45am

Britain held talks yesterday with Indian regional leader Narendra Modi, ending a 10-year boycott over deadly religious riots in Gujarat that left more than 2,000 dead, including three Britons.

Modi, a Hindu nationalist tipped as a future prime minister, came to power in Gujarat shortly before the 2002 riots and is accused of doing little to prevent India's worst religious violence since independence.

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

Since the riots, British officials had been banned from dealing directly with Modi but the government this month changed its policy and announced that its ambassador to India, James Bevan, would travel to Gujarat.

Gujarat is one of India's flagship states for attracting foreign direct investment.

Bevan held "talks with Chief Minister Modi and other senior politicians, and he is also meeting with British firms who have infrastructure projects in the state", a British embassy spokesman said.

The 2002 riots were triggered by the deaths of nearly 60 Hindus in a train fire initially blamed on Muslims. Modi is accused of failing to halt revenge attacks that killed more than 2,000, mainly Muslims, rights groups say.