Taj Mahal, Gandhi on agenda of royal passage to India

  • Prasun Sonwalkar, Hindustan Times, London
  • Updated: Apr 01, 2016 16:11 IST
Prince William and his wife Kate Middleton appear with their daughter outside St Mary's Hospital in London in this file photo. (Reuters)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge plan to start a “personal relationship” with India from April 10 during a busy visit that will see them paying tribute to victims of the Mumbai attacks and sitting for an iconic photo on the lovers bench at the Taj Mahal.

The visit, announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to London in November, is being undertaken at the request of the David Cameron government. It promises to be the royal couple’s “most colourful tour to date”.

It will be the first visit to India by the royal couple, better known as Prince William and Kate Middleton. The visit from April 10 to 16 will include a day in Bhutan. Besides events in Mumbai and New Delhi, they will also travel to Assam.

“In India, The Duke and Duchess will be starting a personal relationship with a country that will play a major global role throughout Their Royal Highnesses’ lives,” a royal spokesperson said, adding the focus will be on “understanding India” in the 21st century.

Key engagements include a meeting with an unnamed “senior political leader” in New Delhi, visiting the Old Birla House, where Mahatma Gandhi spent his last years, and tributes to Indian soldiers who fought in World War I at India Gate.

In Mumbai, their engagements include a Bollywood charity event, watching a cricket match at the Oval Maidan, and paying tribute to the victims of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

The couple’s visit to Assam, coinciding with the Bihu festival, will include a trip to the Kaziranga National Park and the Mark Shand Foundation. Shand, a prominent conservationist who died in April 2014, was the brother of Camilla, the Duchess of Conrwall.

The tour will provide several photo opportunities but the British news media will be most keen on the couple’s visit to the Taj Mahal on April 16. Prince William’s mother, Diana, sat alone on the lovers’ bench for an iconic photograph during her and Prince Charles’ visit to India in February 1992.

The spokesperson said: “This tour to India and Bhutan occurs in the week before The Queen’s 90th birthday. The Duke and Duchess are honoured to be carrying out this visit on Her Majesty’s behalf as so many around the world prepare to celebrate this happy milestone.

“The Queen of course has visited India several times and the country is the largest member of the Commonwealth.”

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