The presentation of Gandhi memorabilia, a spectacular procession through the town of Windsor followed by a privileged peek at the royal family's private art collection, and the Queen's baton relay launch for the 14th Commonwealth Games to be held in New Delhi - these will be among the many sparkling ceremonies awaiting President Pratibha Patil when she arrives in London on October 26 as part of a week-long tour of the United Kingdom and Cyprus.
First visit since 1990
Ms. Patil's visit to the U.K. is the first by an Indian President since 1990. As is to be expected, the first item on her itinerary is a meeting with members of the Indian community. The visit formally kicks off on October 27 with a visit to Windsor, where she will be ceremonially greeted by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
Through the next two days she will meet, aside from the Queen, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Leader of the Opposition David Cameron, and Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg. The Queen will host a banquet in Ms. Patil's honour as will the Lord Mayor of the City of London.
Ms. Patil and the business delegation accompanying her will participate in a meeting organised by the U.K.-India Business Council. Also on the cards is a Presidential visit to the Westminster for a meeting with British Parliamentarians.
A highlight of Ms. Patil's stay will be the handing over of Gandhi memorabilia - including rare letters and post cards autographed by the Mahatma and a piece of khadi spun by him - by NRI entrepreneurs Sir Gulam K. Noon and Professor Nat Puri, who bought these items at an auction in London in July this year.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who will be accompanying Ms. Patil on the British leg of the tour, said the state visit's importance had become greater for being the first since the commencement of the 2004 Strategic Partnership between India and the U.K.
Ms. Rao said that apart from growing trade and economic relations, the countries cooperated in important areas such as education, research and science and technology. Bilateral trade stood at £12 billion and in terms of the number of projects, the U.K. was the fourth largest investor in India, and India the second largest overseas investor in the U.K.