David Cameron will visit the Sikh holy city of Amritsar in a clear message to woo Sikhs and Punjabis settled back home. Britain is home to nearly 15 lakh Indians, most of them being of Punjab origin. Cameron is scheduled to visit the holiest of Sikh shrines, Harmandar Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple.
He is the highest democratically elected leader from Britain to visit the Sikh shrine. British monarch Queen Elizabeth visited Amritsar in October 1997. The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), the mini-parliament of Sikh religion, plans to honour Cameron with a ‘Shiropa’ (a traditional religious honour) during his visit.
Cameron will also visit the Jallianwala Bagh, the site of the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children by British troops April 13, 1919. Queen Elizabeth too had visited the Jallianwala Bagh memorial and paid homage to those killed in the massacre of unarmed Indians by British forces led by Brigadier Reginald Dyer.
While she acknowledged that the episode was a “distressing episode in history”, she stopped short of offering an apology for it. Security across this Sikh holy city has been tightened for today’s visit of Cameron. The entire walled city, where the Sikh shrine and the Jallianwala Bagh are located, is under a tight security cover for the past two days. Both places are within 150 metres of each other. Over 3,000 police personnel will be deployed for the visit.
British and Indian security officials have been camping here for the last few days to supervise security and other arrangements. The congested roads and lanes of the walled city were being spruced up yesterday, ahead of the VVIP visit. Encroachments along the road were removed to give the place a neater look.
After visiting the Sikh shrine and Jallianwala Bagh, Cameron is scheduled to visit the factory of basmati rice, which is exported to Britain and other countries and is quite famous there.
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PM Manmohan Singh yesterday said that he had conveyed his “serious concern” to British counterpart over allegations of corruption in a 2010 deal for Anglo-Italian helicopters. “I also conveyed to the prime minister our very serious concerns regarding allegations that unethical means were used in securing the 2010 contract for AgustaWestland,” he Singh. “PM David Cameron has assured me of the cooperation of his government in the investigation,” Singh added. AgustaWestland, which manufactures helicopters in Britain, is owned by Italian aerospace giant Finmeccanica, whose CEO was arrested last week over allegations the company paid bribes to win the Indian deal in 2010. "We will respond to any request for information. I am glad that the Italian authorities are looking into this issue in detail," Cameron said. "In Britain we have introduced anti-bribery legislation that is probably the strongest anywhere in the world. We will root out any problems of bribery and corruption wherever and whenever they appear,” he said.
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