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Ceremonial welcome affirms UK-Indian partnership

The British and Indian Armies are closer than ever thanks to recent joint training exercises. Today, the strength of that partnership was clearly in evidence as India’s visiting Chief of the Army Staff, in the UK on a four-day visit, received a formal ceremonial welcome, with a special parade by The Guards of the British Army in London.

At the request of the UK Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Patrick Sanders, Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards, immaculate in their scarlet tunics and black bearskin caps, presented a Guard of Honour on Horse Guards Parade for General Manoj Pande, Chief of the Army Staff of the Indian Army.

The Captain of the Guard, Captain Zacharias Faja, invited the Indian General to inspect the Guard of Honour, showing the ultimate respect to the esteemed visitor.

Harmony between nations

The Band of the Grenadier Guards, conducted by their Director of Music, Captain Robert Smith, performed a bespoke programme of music in support of the occasion, illustrating the harmony that exists between our two nations.

There have been a series of bilateral visits and military engagements between the UK and India since the beginning of 2023, including the visit of the UK’s Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, to India in April.

Working together for future success

Indian troops from the 6th Battalion of the Bihar Regiment visited the UK’s Salisbury Plain Training Area in May 2023 to take part in a demanding military exercise, Exercise Ajeya Warrior.

This involved troops from the UK’s 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team working at high intensity to deliver a state-of-the-art training package that closely simulated joint war fighting.

A company from the Bihar Regiment was integrated into the 2nd Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles battlegroup to conduct high tempo operations in a pioneering simulated training environment, fully testing both nations’ abilities to work together under pressure.

The results were extraordinary and both nations were in agreement it was some of the best training they had received, boosting ‘interoperability’ (the ability for nations to work seamlessly together on operations for maximum impacts).

Standing in the same spot as The King

Today, as Big Ben struck the half hour, General Sir Patrick Sanders accompanied General Manoj Pande for the inspection which took place on one of the most iconic parade grounds in the UK.

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.

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.

Delighted to see an Indian in the ranks

Within their ranks today was Guardsman Singh who was born in India Punjab, Chandigarh.

After being inspired by stories he read on the Internet about the British Army, he started following The Guards on social media.

He moved to the UK in 2021 to pursue his dream of becoming a King’s Guard, and 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.

Future military commitments

Immediately following the inspection, the two generals retired to the grand historic offices overlooking Horse Guards Parade to discuss our shared future military commitments and joint training opportunities.

General Manoj 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 Indian General on an enriching cultural tour of London.

Critical to our future stability

The UK has made the Indo Pacific ‘tilt’ a permanent pillar of our international policy. 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.

Ceremonial welcomes of this nature are considered especial and memorable moments of high honour from one nation to another.

The first Indian representative to be afforded such an honour

On Friday, some 200 Officer Cadets, including 45 international cadets, of Commissioning Course 223 will pass out as Commissioned Army Officers at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

General Manoj Pande, India's Chief of Army Staff has been given the supreme privilege of being the Sovereign's representative at that parade and he will take the salute in place of The King at the pass off parade.

He is the first Indian representative ever to be afforded such an honour.

Visits like this help to increase understanding about our shared military capabilities, objectives and priorities, all of which are vital for a stronger UK-India strategic partnership.

The British Army is a global force, persistently engaged around the world, training and operating with its partners to better support the Government’s Global Britain Agenda.

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.

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