European Union, which has ended over a decade-old boycott of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has been told by him that the 2002 riots in the state were unfortunate.
Modi took the unusual step of driving to Germany embassy here to a luncheon meeting with envoys and representatives of several European Union member countries that was hosted by German Ambassador Michael Steiner. The meeting remained undisclosed for one month till EU Ambassador Joao Cravinho went public yesterday.
Steiner told reporters today that he had always maintained that Germany had no intention of interfering in Gujarat Assembly elections and that it will take a "fresh look" after the election results.
"That is exactly what we were doing and part of it is to talk directly to Chief Minister Modi. India is a democracy. We respect democratic institutions. We respect election results in India and we have full trust in its judicial system.
Because of this respect and trust, we are now in a new phase," the German Ambassador said.
However, he refused to give further details of the meeting but other sources in the know said, during the January 7 meeting with EU delegation, Modi said he will abide by the judicial verdict and that these events were unfortunate.
Modi is also understood to have said that everything should be done to avoid such events.
Asked if the EU, which has boycotted Modi for over 10 years after the riots, was softening up, Cravinho said, "The accountability of what happened in 2002, I think is the matter that is of interest to Indians and is of interest for people around the world."
He said that in India, there is a certain amount of emotion attached to what happened in 2002.
"And it is a matter that we will follow with great interest...," he said.
Referring to last year's verdict by a Gujarat court convicting BJP legislator Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi along with 30 others for their role in the Naroda Patia riots, the Ambassador said, Indian justice might be slow but delivers.
"Some months ago, there was end of one part of judicial process which shows that justice in India may be slow but it produces results. And that has helped to look towards closure of what everybody agrees is very very terrible set of events," he told a select group of journalists.
According to the sources, EU countries feel this is the right time to engage with Modi, who has been elected third time and has no judicial verdict against him. There is also a feeling among these countries that he is a player at the national level.
Last October, Britain, a member of the EU, had ended its decade-long boycott of Gujarat when its High Commissioner to India James Bevan met Modi to mark a "cordial beginning" to fresh ties, with the two discussing opportunities for greater economic cooperation.
In the first engagement with Gujarat in 10 years after it snapped all ties with the state in the aftermath of the 2002 communal riots, the British High Commissioner met Modi for about 50 minutes, discussing a range of issues, including climate change and investments.