LONDON: British MP Barry Gardiner has written to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, inviting him to visit the House of Commons and speak on 'The Future of Modern India', a move that ends UK's decade-long boycott of Modi following the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Gardiner, who is also the chairman of Labour Friends of India, told TOI that he invited Modi because he is the chief minister of a state with which Britain has more FDI than the rest of the country put together.
"Narendrabhai is (among) the longest-serving chief ministers of his generation. He is also CM of a state with which Britain has more FDI than the rest of India," Gardiner told TOI.
"Just because he is from the BJP does not mean he isn't secular. Look at Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Did he rule as a divisive character? Was he a bad prime minister? Both Modi and Vajpayee are respectful of the (Indian) constitution. India was earlier a regional power. It's now a global power. In this century, it can become a superpower. It's, therefore, of utmost importance to hear the views of a man who has had so much influence on the country's events," Gardiner said.
"Whether or not Modi goes on to become India's next prime minister, nobody can deny he is clearly one of India's most influential political actors. Hence, his view on how he wants to see India in the near future is of great interest to the UK and Europe," Gardiner added.
Modi has been invited to visit the House of Commons and deliver a lecture for a select group of top MPs on what he envisages should be the future of modern India. Gardiner is also a shadow minister. The influential Labour organisation works to further links between the Labour Party and India.
"I would like you to speak about 'The Future of Modern India'. Of course I understand how busy the current period is for you with the Indian elections next year, so please regard this invitation as being for any time that is convenient to you over the next months."
Gardiner said Modi's "integrity, ability to administer and govern and strategic political thinking is of the highest order". He called him "a secular leader who has the overwhelming support of all communities in Gujarat... proven time and time again in state elections".
"I have met politicians from across the world and I rank him on the pinnacle of all political leaders I have known," Gardiner said. "His competence to govern is unbelievable."
Asked whether Modi is capable of governing India, Gardiner said, "Gujarat is the size of the UK or any European country. Since he has taken the state to the highest pinnacles of growth, it's easy to see him as the head of the UK or any European country."
On Gujarat riots, Gardiner said, "The Supreme Court has till now exonerated Modi of all charges regarding the riots, and I believe the Supreme Court. We have to access the man on his capability to govern. It took us four days to control the London riots in 2012. It took him three days to bring the riots to a stop in Gujarat.
Earlier this year, the European Union also ended a decade-old boycott of Modi.
British minister of state at the foreign and commonwealth office Hugo Swire recently became the first cabinet minister from the UK to visit Gujarat. Swire had told TOI that UK's renewed engagement with Gujarat after more than a decade was more "economic" and not "an endorsement of any single politician or party".
"In October 2012, after much consideration, our government changed our approach to engagement in Gujarat," Swire had said. "The decision was not taken lightly and I respect the views of those who disagree with our change of policy. Gujarat has grown at 10% per year for the last five years and is experiencing rapid development. The UK has a broad range of interests there."
Kounteya Sinha, Aug 14, 2013,TOI