Home India News Pratibha Patil begins Britain visit with Diaspora meet

Pratibha Patil begins Britain visit with Diaspora meet

By Dipankar De Sarkar,IANS,

London : Pratibha Patil arrived here Monday — becoming only the third Indian President to come to Britain on a state visit — for three days of close interactions with British royals, politicians and Indian-origin achievers.

Politicians and industrialistS were among some 400 people — largely of Indian origin and from all walks of life — set to greet Patil at a reception in central London in a recognition of the importance of a community that has grown to some two million in strength.

“The Indian Diaspora in the UK is a big factor in our bilateral relations today, building bridges across many sectors,” said an Indian diplomat, as Patil was received at the airport by senior British officials, including Sir David Brewer, the Queen’s Lord Lieutenant for Greater London, and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson.

Reinforcing the ties with India, two leading members of the Indian Diaspora — industrialists Ghulam K Noon and Nat Puri — will present Patil with a set of letters and a piece of khadi autographed by Gandhi, which they jointly bought at an auction earlier this year.

Patil is accompanied by her husband Devisingh Ramsingh Shekhawat and senior officials, including minister of state for human resources D. Purandeshwari and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, the President’s Secretary Christy Fernandes and her Military Secretary Maj. Chopra.

With trade between the two countries touching a record 12 billion pounds last year, FICCI president and industrialist Harsh Pati Singhania is leading a business delegation to give the presidential visit a strong economic content.

On Tuesday, Prince Charles — the eldest son of Britain’s reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II — will personally escort Patil and Shekhawat from their London hotel to Windsor, a royal town some 40 km from the British capital.

They will then be taken in a ceremonial state carriage procession to Windsor Castle, where she will stay as the Queen’s guest before flying out to Cyprus on a state visit Oct 29. The Queen will throw a banquet in her honour Tuesday evening.

Patil is the third Indian president to visit Britain after S. Radhakrishnan in 1963 and R. Venktaraman in 1990, and the first since the two countries signed a landmark strategic partnership agreement in 2004 — a reason the two governments are attaching a great deal of importance to the visit.

During her stay Patil will meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the leaders of the two opposition parties — the Conservative David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg — reinforcing the close ties between the two countries.

She will hold business meetings, view a science exhibition on climate change — at her own request — and meet with British MPs belonging to the All-Party Group on India.

In addition, Prince Charles will host a reception for her in London where they will discuss his charity, the British Asian Trust, which works in fields of education, enterprise and health in South Asia.