Former President Pratibha D. Patil expressed ‘great sadness’ on the passing of Queen Elizabeth-II — “a stalwart of our times”, here on Friday.
“The Queen provided inspiring leadership to her nation and the British people. She was the first British Monarch who had the admiration of people all over the world, especially the Commonwealth,” said Patil.
She recalled her own memorable meeting with the Queen during her state visit to the United Kingdom in 2009.
“I will never forget the warmth, respect and kindness she showed towards me,” said the ex-President in a condolence message to the British High Commissioner in India Alex Ellis.
Patil added that the Queen always “led with unwavering commitment to duty and grace which will always be remembered”.
“I share the grief of the Royal Family and the people of the UK and convey my heartfelt condolences,” said ex-President Patil.
The then President Patil had made a 4-day state visit to the UK in November 2009 at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth-II, becoming the first woman Indian head of state to meet the British Monarch.
Patil was accorded a red carpet welcome by the Queen at the Windsor Palace, later received the Queen’s Baton for the Commonwealth Games-2010 at the Buckingham Palace, formal banquets and other engagements.
Other official meetings of Patil included one with the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Leader of Opposition David Cameroon — who later became the PM, and also other political leaders, members of the Indian diaspora and other prominent personalities.
Queen Elizabeth had visited India thrice during her reign – the first historic visit of 1961 at the invitation of the country’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad and the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and was the Chief Guest of the Republic Day celebrations.
Later, the Queen travelled to India to inaugurate the CHOGM conference in 1983 during the tenure of then President Giani Zail Singh and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, when she also had a famous meeting with Mother Teresa, later beatified as a Saint.
The Queen’s final trip to the former British colony and the jewel in the crown, was in 1997 and equally momentous for the golden jubilee celebrations of India’s Independence when she went to the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar and paid tributes to the Martyrs there.
On her part, the Queen played host to three Indian Presidents — Dr. S. Radhakrishnan (1963), Dr. R. Venkatraman (1990), followed by Pratibha Patil (2009), while the ex-President Neelam Sanjiva Reddy had attended the wedding of Prince of Wales — now King Charles, with Lady Diana in July 1981.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)