India and Britain spar over who will open CWG

first_imgThe Indian government and the office of Britain’s Prince Charles are reportedly sparring over New Delhi’s plans for a “joint inauguration” of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) which will not give the prince a solo role at the October 3 ceremony.The government has reportedly drawn up plans for President Pratibha Patil to declare the sporting event open. Charles, representing Queen Elizabeth who is skipping the event because of the ” sheer volume” of her engagements, will have a similarly important but not singular duty at the ceremony.This has resulted in diplomatic differences between India and Charles’s office even though there is no formal word on the matter yet.Traditionally, the British monarch who heads the Commonwealth of former British colonies, declares these Games open. The role can also be given to her representative.Clarence House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales in London, insisted that Charles will fulfill the duties originally intended for the queen.A spokesperson for Clarence House said, ” The queen has asked the prince to represent her in Delhi, and carry out the same duties she would perform if she was there. He will officially declare the Games open.”Sources in Rashtrapati Bhawan, meanwhile, said that so far they had no intimation about the President inaugurating the Games.New Delhi believes that with the queen not attending the Games, there is a qualitative change in the situation. Sources in the government, who confirmed the development over the ” joint inauguration” issue, said had Elizabeth attended the event, she alone would have received the Queen’s Relay Baton, read out the message to the athletes and declared the Games open. But, it is different now that she will not be in Delhi for the October 3 opening.advertisementDuring the discussions in the government on the opening ceremony, the possibility of a ” joint inauguration” was put on the table. It was reportedly suggested that Patil could be handed over the Queen’s Baton, followed by Charles reading out the Queen’s message and then the President declaring the Games open, the sources said.Another possibility of a “joint inauguration” by the President and Charles was also reportedly discussed.The Queen’s Relay Baton – which is now on its way to Delhi after being carried through Commonwealth countries across the world – also carries the monarch’s message to participating athletes.Speculation among senior government sources is that the last line of the message is ” I declare the Games open”. While Charles is expected to read the message, including this line, President Patil could also declare the Games open, said the sources who did not want to be named. The details of this option are being worked out.Well- placed sources said that the matter is still being negotiated at the highest levels of the two governments to find a way out of the impasse. The discussions have reportedly also included the Commonwealth Games Federation and the CWG Organising Committee. A final decision is expected early this week.This is not the first time that a member of Britain’s royal family – the monarch or her representative – will not inaugurate the Games. There is already a precedent.The 1998 Games at Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia were inaugurated by the Malaysian King. On that occasion Edward, the Queen’s third son represented her at the opening ceremony.Diplomats have supported the move for an inauguration of the Games by the President.Former foreign secretary Salman Haider said, “It would be gratifying if the President inaugurates the Commonwealth Games. It will be a matter of pride for the entire country.Prince Charles’s presence on the occasion will be an added dimension.” According to him, Charles has often visited India and his position will not be downgraded in any way if Patil inaugurates the Games.Another top diplomat, former foreign secretary Shashank said the President in her capacity as head of state in the queen’s absence should ” ideally inaugurate” the event.” This will be an honour for India. It is most likely that both governments will work out a formula for a role for Charles that will be acceptable to the British royalty.” The British High Commission in the Capital had earlier said that it was ” delighted” that Charles would represent the queen at the opening ceremony.The implication was that he would take on her full role.Charles will be accompanied by his wife, Camilla Parker Bowles. The Prince of Wales is expected to arrive on October 1. He is likely to visit Rajasthan and Punjab during his India visit.advertisementWith input from agencieslast_img

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