Saturday, February 09, 2013

EU did not want to miss business opportunity in Gujarat

New Delhi: The BJP was surprisingly subdued in its reponse over the reported breaking of ice between Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and ambassadors of the European Union (EU) countries in a lunch meeting last month. They let the issue pass. National Democratic Alliance (NDA) convenor Sharad Yadav did not see much significance in it, making the wry observatiion that there was no need to look for approval from the West long after India has freed itself from colonial bondage. The EU kept it a secret. It did not announce its breakthrough with Modi in the manner United Kingdom (UK) did, when the British ambassador officially visited Ahmedabad and met Modi after an official announcement in London. The EU countries were however moving towards Modi for quite some time now, especially after his third electoral victory in December. Ministry of External Affairs did not know about the EU envoys' meeting with Modi. Sources say there was nothing exceptional about it as diplomats regularly meet with the elected representatives in various parts of the country, and they are not obliged to keep the ministry in the loop. German ambassador Michael Steiner, who had hosted the lunch for Modi and his fellow EU envoys, said in a statement, "India is a democracy. We respect the democratic institutions, we respect election results in India and we have full trust in its judicial system.” This was by way of explanation about the meeting. Former diplomat G.Parthasarathy said that the EU and the United States worked closely, and once the US had lifted the travel ban, it served as a cue for the EU. The US and the UK were concerned because their citizens were killed in the riots. But they changed their position much later. The EU did not want to miss the economic opportunity in Gujarat, and some of them who had travelled to the state found the governance transparent and the economic growth exceptional, especially in Gujarat. He was also of the view that it was difficult for the EU countries to boycott Modi because there has as yet been neither conviciton nor indictment, and even the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) did not find any incriminatory evidence against the chief minister with regard to the 2002 riots in the state where more that 2000 Muslims were killed after 56 Hindu passengers belonging to Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) were burned when the train carriage they were travelling in was set on fire. Parthasarathy also pointed out that the affluent and influential Gujarati expatriate community in the US and in the UK had lobbied with their governments for Modi and it was partly responsible for the change in stance of the American and British governments. He also admitted that the stern position adopted by the EU countries in 2002 was because of the terror attack of 9/11 and the sensitivity of the EU governments towards their Muslim minorities.

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