President to visit UK, Cyprus from October 26-31

President Pratibha Patil will leave here on October 26 on a six-day state visit to the United Kingdom and Cyprus that is expected to help boost India's bilateral relations with the two countries.

Ms Patil's visit to the UK from October 27 to 29 will be the third state visit to that country by an Indian President after a visit by then President S Radhakrishnan in 1963 and Mr R Venkataraman in 1990.

Briefing journalists about the visit, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said here yesterday that it would also be the first state visit after the commencement of the strategic partnership between India and the UK in 2004.

"We are looking forward to this visit which is taking place after a gap of almost twenty years, and which will enable interactions between the United Kingdom and India at the highest level," she said.

Ms Patil will have wide-ranging interactions with Queen Elizabeth II and other British leaders during the visit. The Queen will host a banquet in honour of the President,

The President will also meet British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Leader of the Opposition David Cameron and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg.

Ms Patil will also address a business meeting organised by the UK-India Business Council in which the business delegation accompanying her will participate.

Ms Rao said the Lord Mayor of the City of London would host a banquet in the President's honour at the Guild Hall. The President will also interact with British Members of Parliament in a meeting organised at the Westminster by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on India.

Ms Patil will also interact with members of the Indian community soon after her arrival in London on October 26. She will also participate in a ceremony at the Buckingham Palace, where the Queen's Baton Relay launch for the 14th Commonwealth Games, to be hosted by Delhi in October next year, will take place.

In London, Ms Patil will attend a function at which two prominent members of the Indian community, Mr Nat Puri and Mr Ghulam Noon, who is known as the "Curry King", will hand over to her some letters of Mahatma Gandhi and other memorabilia, including a piece of khadi cloth, acquired through an auction in the UK.

"We attach importance to the visit by our President to a country with which we have long historical ties which have become increasingly substantive in the recent past. Apart from the growing trade and economic relations, India and the UK cooperate well in a number of areas including education, research, science and technology among others," Ms Rao said.

The Foreign Secretary said the two countries also had a regular exchange of views on important regional and global issues and cooperate well in international fora.

She said the two-way bilateral trade stood at 12 billion pound sterling. The UK is India the fourth largest investor in India. In turn, India is the second largest overseas investor in the UK in terms of the number of projects. Since 2004, India's investments in the UK have exceeded the British investments into India.

Ms Rao said the year 2007-08 saw India retain its position as one of the world's fastest growing sources of investments into the UK, especially in information technology and the life sciences. India is also the second largest creator of jobs in the UK.

"All this has signalled well for the bilateral relationship. We also have a large diaspora in the UK which is doing extremely well and making a substantive contribution to UK society.

"We are confident that the President’s visit will help in furthering our bilateral ties with the United Kingdom. The visit also signals our commitment at the highest level to our strategic partnership with the UK," Ms Rao said.

Mr Vivek Katju, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said the President would visit Cyprus from October 29 to 31 in response to an invitation from her Cypriot counterpart Dimitris Christofias.

Apart from a meeting with Mr Christofias, she will also be meeting the President, or the Speaker, of the House of Representatives of Cyprus, Mr Marios Karoyian and the Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos II.

Among other engagements, Ms Patil will visit the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce for an event in which the Cyprus-India Business Association and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry will participate. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM).

The President will also meet with members of the 4000-strong Indian community in Cyprus, which mainly consists of professionals, students and others.

Mr Katju said India and Cyprus have enjoyed a very strong relationship right from the time of Cyprus’ Independence in 1960. India has consistently stood for the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Cyprus. In turn, Cyprus has shown a sensitivity and support for India’s positions in various areas.

"The President’s visit will continue this long tradition of interaction at the highest levels between the two countries," he added.


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