U.K. Woos Controversial Indian Leader Decade After Deadly Riots

The U.K. government agreed to meet with Narendra Modi, the potential Indian prime minister candidate Britain boycotted for 10 years over his alleged role in riots that killed about 1,000 people in 2002.

Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said in a statement yesterday that he asked the British High Commissioner in New Delhi to visit Modi, governor of Gujarat, to discuss issues including justice for British citizens killed in the rioting.

Modi has turned Gujarat into one of India’s most business-friendly states, luring investors with faster approval process for developments, a network of roads and ports and uninterrupted power supply, a rarity in India. Political opponents and rights groups had earlier accused him of allowing the 2002 violence to continue.

“The U.K. has a broad range of issues in Gujarat,” Swire said. “We want to secure justice for the families of the British nationals who were killed in 2002. We want to support human rights and good governance in the state.”

The riots in 2002 saw Hindu mobs rape and kill Muslims after a fire on a train claimed 58 lives, among them Hindu pilgrims. Modi allegedly instructed police to stand down and allow the violence to go on, according to findings by a Concerned Citizens Tribunal.

Modi said he did his best to maintain law and order and his administration later won re-election in the state. Modi’s economic record helped propel him as a possible prime minister candidate for the main opposition Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party party at the next general election.

“It is better late than never,” Modi said on Twitter yesterday in response to the U.K. decision. “I welcome U.K. government’s steps for active engagement & strengthening relations with Gujarat.”

In an opinion poll published last week in the Sunday Indian, a weekly magazine, Modi was named as the person most likely to boost economic growth if he became prime minister.

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