President Pratibha Patil today left on a two-nation state visit to the UK and Cyprus during which she will receive the Commonwealth baton from Queen Elizabeth, marking initiation of the year-long relay of the symbol of the sporting event to be held here next October.
London will be the first stop of Patil's week-long two-nation tour that will also take her to Cyprus. During her visit to Britain, first by an Indian president after 20 years, she will hold talks with prime minister Gordon Brown and meet Leader of Opposition David Cameroon. Queen Elizabeth will host a banquet in honour of the Indian President.
The highlight of the visit will be presentation to the President of some letters of Mahatma Gandhi and a piece of khadi cloth by two prominent Indians -- Nath Puri and Ghulam Noon -- who have purchased these in an auction.
In 1990, the then President R Venkatraman had paid a State visit to the UK. Prior to him, V Radhakrishnan had visited the country in 1963. In the second leg of the visit, the President will travel to Cyprus where she will meet President Demetris Christofias and other senior leaders.
The visit comes about two decades after former President R Venkataraman travelled to the island nation.The population of Indians in Cyprus, which is slightly smaller than Tripura, has grown more than 10-fold since 1997 when only 300-400 long-term Indian residents were present.
Most of the Indians living in Cyprus are software professionals and students. Trade between the two countries has grown to 54.46 million Euros in 2008 from 39.78 million Euros in 2007 with Indian exports to Cyprus to the tune of 47.13 million Euros which comprise metals, machinery, pharmaceuticals among others.
Cyprus government has decided to develop hi-tech and knowledge-based industries as the third pillar of its economy which can give Indian companies a potential strong market.