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Charles on desi heritage tour

London/New Delhi, Oct. 27: The latest trip to India by the Prince of Wales, starting tomorrow and lasting for nine days, is intended to be a “goodwill visit” meant to strengthen bilateral relations, but everyone knows the accompanying British press party is mainly interested in the fallout of Paul Burrell’s book.

The Prince will not be allowed by the British press to forget what many see as the latest royal crisis.

Claiming to be the man who was closest to Diana, her former butler is milking his knowledge of the princess for all it is worth. He is expected to make anything up to £2 million from A Royal Duty, which has already raked over Diana’s lovers (Pakistani surgeon Hasnat Khan was apparently her favourite). He is promising further embarrassing revelations.

Prince Charles, who was in India in 1992 with Princess Diana at the time when their marriage was coming apart, will not be bringing his companion Camilla Parker-Bowles, as some had hoped. He will have a number of formal meetings, including calling on President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. No meeting has been scheduled with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Prince’s visit will highlight the close links between the UK and India, focusing on heritage and restoration, sustainable development and youth entrepreneurship. Many of his other meetings will reflect his interests in the work of young entrepreneurs, craftsmen and technicians and in conservation.

“The tour will emphasise the continuing strong linkes between Britain and India. This includes UK investment in the new Delhi metro system and social and environmental work with UK-based charities, such as the Delhi Brotherhood Society and Action Aid,” said a statement issued by the British High Commission.

The Prince will spend three days in Delhi, four days in Rajasthan and two days in Mumbai.

A joint British-Indian Naval Event on HMS Kent at the Mumbai docks will highlight the growing relationship between the Royal Navy and the Indian Navy.

As Bollywood is big in Britain, especially after the success of Bombay Dreams, he had wanted while in Mumbai to drop in on the sets of The Rising, a new movie about the 1857 mutiny, starring Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai and the Dame Maggie Smith’s son, Toby Stephens. But it seems uncertain whether the set will be ready.

Charles will go to Rajasthan and to Jaipur, which he always does because the British royal family has been close to the House of Jaipur for decades. Neither his advisers nor his Indian programmers saw fit to take him to other unexplored parts of India.

The sightseeing this time will take in Humayun’s Tomb, Nagaur Fort, Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and the City Palace in Jaipur.

In a statement, issued in London and Delhi, the Prince said: “I am very much looking forward to returning to India for which I have always had a particular affection. As a great admirer of India’s rich history and architectural treasures, not to mention her religious and cultural traditions, I am very keen to highlight the important restoration and conservation work being carried out to protect this unique heritage. But I am also keen to see some of the latest developments in India — and how strong links with Britain continue to grow for our mutual benefit.”

He added: “The visit promises to be both busy and rewarding. It gives me great joy to be returning to your remarkable country.”

The high opinion Indians have of him was reflected in a comment made today to The Telegraph by Sir Gulam Noon, the businessman who has been a generous contributor to the Prince’s trust.

“India should welcome him,” emphasised Noon. “He is the one person who has always projected India wherever he has gone and whichever function he has attended.”

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