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Camilla for India, prince as guide

London, March 3: Never a dull moment for India’s hospitality department. After Chirac, Clinton and Bush, the next high-profile visitor to India is to be Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Prince Charles will bring his 58-year-old wife for her first experience of India later this month, it was announced today by Clarence House.

The prince has been many times to India, the country to which he was introduced by his great-uncle, Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy.

It is known he has been keen to show India to Camilla. This will be only their second foreign foray together as husband and wife ' the couple went to the US in November last year where Camilla displayed enough diplomacy to steer clear of any controversy.

The couple will be in India from March 26 to 31, and begin by attending the British high commissioner’s annual reception for diplomats, politicians and businessmen. They will travel on to Punjab and Rajasthan, where Charles and the British Indian community have been promoting a range of charitable initiatives.

The chief ministers of the two states have invited the couple to support plans to help promote sustainable farming, water conservation and employment generation.

Charles and Camilla will come to India via Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“All three countries are important partners for the United Kingdom and it is hoped that the visits will help to develop further close relations with these countries,” said a spokesman for the royal couple. “The visits provide an opportunity to support the UK’s international contribution and profile.”

“The key themes of the tour are promoting better understanding and tolerance between faiths, supporting environmental and conservation initiatives and encouraging sustainable employment and training opportunities for young people,” he added.

Charles last visited India in October and November 2003, when he met the dabbawallahs in Mumbai. When Charles and Camilla married in Windsor last year, the dabbawallahs sent her a “lovely green sari” and were invited to send their representatives to the wedding ' a signal honour.

Since their marriage, Camilla has been introduced by Charles to selected members of the Indian community in London. Following in the footsteps of the immensely more photogenic and beautiful Princess Diana has not been easy for her. But she has not put a foot wrong since her death and has been helped by warm words from her stepsons, Princes William and Harry.

She has visited the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in west Kensington, where she confirmed she had received her wedding gift. “It is a lovely green sari; I’ve got it.” As to when she would wear it, she would only say: “I will pick my moment.”

She also attended a gala production of the musical, The Far Pavilions, (as did Shah Rukh Khan on the same evening) where she went backstage after the performance, met cast members and said of M.M. Kaye’s magnum opus: “My favourite novel is The Far Pavilions.”

The catering people in India will have to be careful not to give her spicy food. Charles quite likes masala dosa and Indian vegetarian fare but fish and chips and baked beans on toast are more Camilla’s cuisine.

At a more serious level, if Camilla’s trip goes well, it will strengthen Charles’s resolve that when he becomes king, she is by his side as queen and not as princess consort.

From the Indian point of view, it is important to ensure that Camilla is not offended in any way during her trip. Her husband bats staunchly for India in Britain.

Camilla would probably like to be presented with masses of silk fabric to bring back to her dressmakers.

The one comment not to make to Camilla on her Indian trip is: “I met Princess Diana when she was here in 1992. She was so beautiful.”

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