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Now, Modi to lecture UK on India's future

August 13, 2013 18:20 IST

Nearly 10 months after the British government warmed up to Narendra Modi, the India groups of the country's two main political parties have invited the Gujarat chief minister to visit the United Kingdom. 

The ball was set rolling by the Opposition party's Labour Friends of India when its chairman, Barry Gardiner MP, sent a letter to Modi last week inviting him to the House of Commons to speak on 'The Future of Modern India'.

"The invitation is a culmination of several years of engagement between senior representatives of the Labour Party and Narendra Modi," the Labour MP for Brent North said.

"I am sure people in the UK and indeed the international community would be very interested to meet and hear what Narendra Modi has to say first hand. He is a politician who cannot be ignored. I believe it's in Britain's best interests that we engage with him as both the chief minister of Gujarat and also potential prime minister," he added.

"I, like many colleagues within the Labour Party, look forward to welcoming chief minister Modi to the UK. I last had the pleasure of meeting him in Gujarat in 2009. His return visit to the UK is long overdue," said Stephen Pound MP, former chair of Labour Friends of India.

In a rare show of political unity, the Conservative Friends of India issued their own invite for the chairman of the BJP's national election committee a day later on August 9.

Its co-chairman, Sailesh Vara MP, struck a personal note in his letter expressing a wish to "finally meet" Modi.

"It would be a great privilege for us to host an event for you. I very much hope that you will take us up on this invitation when opportunity allows," wrote Vara, the Tory MP for North West Cambridgeshire.

The UK government, like the US, had distanced itself from Modi in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots.

However, after a series of meetings over the years, initiated by the likes of prominent British Indian economist Lord Meghnad Desai and Barry Gardiner MP, the Conservative-led coalition was forced to re-establish diplomatic ties with the Modi administration last year.

Lord Gulam Noon, a prominent British Indian Labour peer and one time critic of Modi, welcomed the latest invite for him to visit the UK.

"I think it's the right thing to do and the right time to do it. India's 1.2 billion people want and deserve a change. Narendra Modi is someone who has all the talent to lead the world's largest democracy," Lord Noon said.

The Gujarat chief minister's office confirmed it had received invitations from both Labour and Conservative parliamentary groups. "Modi is grateful for the invitations, but has no immediate plans to visit the UK," a spokesperson said.

October 22 last year, James Bevan, UK's High Commissioner in India, met with Modi, ending a 10-year boycott of the BJP leader by Britain over the 2002 communal riots.

Earlier this year, European Union also ended it’s a decade-old boycott of the Gujarat chief minister over the issue when envoys and representatives of several EU member countries hosted a luncheon meeting for Modi in New Delhi. 

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