London: In a policy shift, the UK on Thursday announced it has asked its envoy to India to visit Gujarat and meet Narendra Modi to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest and explore opportunities for closer cooperation, prompting a jubilant Chief Minister to welcome the move as "better late than never".

"I have asked the British High Commissioner in New Delhi (James Bevan) to visit Gujarat and to meet the Chief Minister and other senior figures in the state.

"This will allow us to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest and to explore opportunities for closer cooperation, in line with the British Government's stated objective of improving bilateral relations with India," Britain's Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said in a statement.

Swire, who is in-charge of India, said, "The UK has a broad range of interests in Gujarat. 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.

"We also want to provide the best possible support to British nationals who live in, work in or visit Gujarat; and to the many Gujaratis who now make up one of the most successful and dynamic communities in the UK." As part of this government's commitment to strengthen relations with India, the UK has an interest "in ensuring that we provide a full and consistent range of services across the whole country. I feel that active engagement will help further these interests.

"We will consider in the light of the High Commissioner's visit how best to take forward our relationship with Gujarat," Swire said.

Reacting to the statement, Modi tweeted: "Getting many messages of pride & joy from Indian diaspora, especially Gujaratis in London & all over the world. Thanks for your affection!"

"Der Aaye Durasta Aaye (better late than never)!! I welcome UK Govt's step for active engagement & strengthening relations with Guj. God is Great," he said on the micro-blogging site.

Swire's announcement on engagement with Gujarat marks a policy shift on the state and Modi, who has faced diplomatic isolation in the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots.


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