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India: Narendra Modi may get UK visa in May, hints Cameron


AHMEDABAD, (Times of India): Visiting British Prime MinisterDavid Cameron, it is reliably learnt, has informed his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh about his government's intention to grant visa to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to visit London in or around the month of May.

"Modi's visa was mentioned in the meeting on Tuesday between the two prime ministers," said a source close to the developments. The UK has been showing signs of warming up to the BJP's emerging prime ministerial candidate and it forged a partnership with the Vibrant Gujarat summit last month.

There was even some speculation that Cameron might "bump into" Modi during his recent India visit, but that was not to be. Instead, it has been decided that a team of British MPs, who will be coming to Gujarat shortly with a business delegation, would invite Modi to visit London.

The change in policy, after the visa denial in 2005 on account of Modi's alleged complicity in the 2002 riots, comes at a time when Cameron's Conservative Party would like to keep Gujarati votes. There are an estimated 850,000 Gujaratis out of around 1.5 million people of Indian origin in UK, and could influence some seats in the December 2013 elections.

The official line, as Cameron spelled out within his group, is that it makes sense to "engage with Modi without endorsing him at the moment". Modi had last visited London in August 2003 but that was without diplomatic protocol. This time he will be visiting in his official capacity as chief minister for which Manmohan Singh will have to give him clearance.

Modi has invitations from the Conservative Friends of India, Friends of BJP and a group of MPs from the European Union to visit London. Incidentally, all programmes are scheduled for May.

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