London: Army chief General Manoj Pande received a ceremonial welcome with a Guard of Honour at Horse Guards Parade in London at the start of his UK visit on Thursday.
Gen. Pande was received by the UK’s Chief of the General Staff, Gen. Sir Patrick Sanders, before he inspected a Guard of Honour by the Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards, one of the oldest regiments in the British Army dressed in their iconic scarlet tunics and black bearskin caps.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the Band of the Grenadier Guards, conducted by Director of Music Captain Robert Smith, performed a bespoke programme of music in support of the occasion to illustrate the harmony between the two nations.
“Framed by the Old Admiralty on one side, No. 10 Downing Street on the other, and with a clear view of Buckingham Palace, it is here that the King takes the salute from the very same spot during the Trooping of the Colour ceremony for his official birthday in June,” the MoD said in a statement.
“There was a powerful sense of faithful continuity about the ceremonial welcome. The regiments represented on parade are among the most historic in the British Army and have enjoyed a reputation of world renown for their dual role excellence in combat operations and ceremonial duties for almost 400 years,” it said.
Within the ranks at the ceremony was Guardsman Singh, born in Chandigarh and joining the Coldstream Guards inspired by stories he read online about the British Army. He moved to the UK in 2021 to pursue his dream of becoming a King’s Guard.
“Today he had the great honour of being on parade in that role as a member of Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards. As General Manoj Pande inspected the ranks, he stopped to talk to Guardsman Singh, whose integration into the British Army is yet another example of how our two nations are working closer than ever,” the MoD said.
Following the inspection, the two generals retired to the grand historic offices overlooking Horse Guards Parade on Whitehall in the heart of London to discuss shared future military commitments and joint training opportunities.
Gen. Pande also had meetings with the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, General Gwyn Jenkins RM, and the Commander of UK Strategic Command, General Sir Jim Hockenhull. The UK Chief of the General Staff also accompanied the visiting Indian Chief on a cultural tour of London.
The highlight of the Army Chief’s visit is on Friday, when around 200 Officer Cadets, including 45 international cadets, of Commissioning Course 223 will pass out as Commissioned Army Officers at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.
Gen. Pande has been given the privilege of being the “Sovereign’s representative” at that parade and he will take the salute in place of King Charles III at the pass off parade. He is the first Indian representative ever to be afforded such an honour, the MoD said.
“Investing in our relationships, especially that as important as India where together we can champion the rules-based international order, is a clear demonstration that the UK is open, outward-looking and confident on the world stage,” it said.
“The region is critical to our economy, our security, and to our interest in an open and stable international order. In this, India is an equal partner for the UK, and that friendship is highly valued, as today’s Guard of Honour testifies,” it added.