By Aditi Khanna
(Eds: Updating with more details and pix)
London, Dec 9 (PTI) Indian High Commissioner to the UK Vikram Doraiswami has become the first Indian diplomat to present his credentials to King Charles III, in a ceremony steeped in tradition and involving a classic horse-drawn carriage riding through the streets of London to Buckingham Palace.
The presentation of “Letters of Commission”, a formal letter from President Droupadi Murmu to the monarch as Britain's Head of State, on Thursday marked the formal start of his UK posting. The ceremony symbolises the Indian Head of State asking the King to give “credence” to the new High Commissioner and that the new diplomat speaks on behalf of India.
"Our friends in the United Kingdom really know how to make this feel very special as we get to go in a four-horse buggy, something specific for Commonwealth heads of mission. So, we have greater horsepower," Doraiswami said on a lighter note, with reference to the pomp and ceremony of the event which has been unchanged since Victorian times.
Doraiswami and his wife, Sangeeta, were collected from their official residence in a State Landau, as the ceremonial horse-drawn carriage is known, for the audience which takes place in one of the state rooms at Buckingham Palace.
The High Commissioner is announced as he enters the room by the Marshall of the Diplomatic Corps and after the presentation of the credentials, the King speaks informally with the new diplomat. The emphasis would have been on issues of the day in India as briefed by his aides and also India-UK relations more broadly.
"His Majesty was very warm and gracious, and our interaction was laced throughout with his great affection for India," said Doraiswami, sharing reflections from his audience with the 74-year-old monarch.
He is the first Indian envoy to be received at the palace by the King since the death of Britain’s longest-serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8.
India's Deputy High Commissioner to the UK, Sujit Ghosh, and other senior officials also accompanied the new High Commissioner to the palace and the journey concluded at his official residence with the ceremonial feeding of the horses with carrots.
This marked the fourth time Doraiswami has presented his credentials to a head of state, having served as India’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan and the Republic of Korea and most recently as the High Commissioner to Bangladesh.
"It was a great opportunity to be able to set out thoughts, plans and ideas to take the India-UK relationship forward," shared the High Commissioner.
Lord Tariq Ahmad, the UK Foreign Office Minister for South Asia, greeted the High Commissioner on behalf of the government and welcomed the recent restoration of the electronic visa (e-visa) facility for UK travellers to India.
"We hope that the India-UK relationship will achieve new heights during your tenure," the minister said in his message.
Doraiswami arrived in London on September 23, when he began his new charge by paying tributes at the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Parliament Square and Ambedkar Museum in north London. Earlier this week, he reached out to the Indian diaspora in the UK to participate in great numbers at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), being hosted in Indore between January 8 and 10, 2023.
"We are working to facilitate the travel requirements of all registered delegates from the UK and would like to see participation that is reflective of the size of the diaspora here," he said.
The High Commissioner also confirmed that the next round of India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations remain on track, with the trade officials team from the UK set to travel to New Delhi next week. PTI AK NSA AKJ AKJ