New Delhi, Feb 8: The dominoes are crumbling. After the British authorities decided to re-engage with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi barely two months prior to the assembly polls in December and lifted the 10-year-old ban imposed since the 2002 riots, it is time for the European Union (EU) to follow suit.
According to a report published in the Indian Express, the ambassadors of all the EU countries gathered at the residence of German Ambassador Michael Steiner and met Modi over lunch early last month. According to the report, the two-hour discussion had seen the ambassadors asking Modi some 'tough' questions about the 2002 riots and the latter answered them 'patiently'. He also told the EU ambassadors about his model of governance and his ideas for India.
The meeting, which was kept secret by both sides, was
significant for it was after a decade that the envoys of the EU
countries met Modi and the newspaper report said: "the meeting
signalled the end of the EU's diplomatic boycott of him."
The EU envoys tried to project the issue as one which was pursued by Modi and not them. A EU source said it was not the ambassadors who had gone to meet Modi like the British or Danish envoys but rather the Gujarat CM who had come to meet them.
But what another diplomatic source said summed up the matter. It said that Modi was not ignorable any more for he had been re-elected for the third time, established his political legitimacy and spoke about his aim of playing a big role in India's national politics.
In August last year when Modi hosted a Google+ hangout, he was asked by his followers whether it would be possible for him to travel to the US, which is yet to roll out a red carpet to the former, the leader said instead of visiting the US, he was aiming to make India so powerful that it is the Americans who feel the urge to queue up for visas one day.
However, though the EU seemed to climbing off the moral high grounds due to economic compulsions, concerns over "human rights" remained at the heart of the ambassadors' engagement with Modi. A source said in order to address those concerns, it was necessary to engage with Modi. It also expressed satisfaction over the August 2012 judicial verdict that sent a Gujarat politician and others to imprisonment for the Naroda massacres of 2002.
It was reported in December that the EU ambassadors would meet in January to assess their policy of having no senior-level contact with the Modi government in Gujarat. In 2008, EU authorities decided to extend the freeze on diplomatic contact with the Modi administration at various levels.
However, cracks appeared in that front after the Danish ambassador to India met the Gujarat CM a couple of times in 2011 followed by the Britain's re-establishing diplomatic contact last October. The British decision did not go well with the EU diplomatic community with most ambassadors questioning the timing, just a couple of months ahead of the assembly polls.