The UK-India Year of Culture was announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s November 2015 visit to London but the Brexit vote has prompted extra focus as India is among the top countries Britain is courting to compensate for the loss of the European market.
India was the first non-EU country Theresa May visited as prime minister, and she held initial talks on a free trade agreement that London hopes to sign as Britain leaves the European Union, expected in mid-2019. New Delhi has already signalled it will seek relaxed visa norms for professionals and others as part of any trade deal.
Queen Elizabeth will add a dash of royal colour next Monday as Buckingham Palace launches the UK-India Year of Culture in the presence of high profile guests from both countries. Finance minister Arun Jaitley will represent India at the event.
A busy calendar of events has been put together to celebrate the year, which also marks the 70th year of India’s independence. It includes events by Indian and British institutions such as the British Film Institute, British Library, Kew Gardens, Open University and the Science Museum. Copies of the Magna Carta and Shakespeare’s First Folio are being exhibited in India.
A Buckingham Palace note on the launch event said attendees will include guests from performing arts, fashion, food, literature and sports, such as Kunal Nayyar, Neha Kapur, Ayesha Dharker, Kapil Dev, Rio Ferdinand, Anoushka Shankar and Joe Wright.
“A highlight of the evening will include a special Indian themed menu of canapes prepared by Royal Chefs working alongside chefs from Veeraswamy, the UK's oldest Indian restaurant,” it said.
There will also be a display from the Royal Collection, including items from previous royal visits to India, and Indian gifts and manuscripts from the Royal Library. The band of the Grenadier Guards will a play a selection of Indian themed music during the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, including the soundtrack from the movie Slumdog Millionaire.
The note recalled that Queen Elizabeth and her family have visited India several times. Her first state visit was in 1961, as the guest of then president Rajendra Prasad. She visited India again in 1983 and 1997, and received three incoming state visits from India (1963, 1990 and 2009).
The most recent royal visit to India was by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2016.