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India denies it cancelled Queen's banquet speech

India expressed surprise at British media reports that New Delhi had cancelled a banquet speech by Queen Elizabeth II in Madras.

Addressing the media on Wednesday, an external affairs ministry spokesman said that, under Indian protocol, only one banquet speech was scheduled by a visiting head of State. This is normally given at the banquet hosted by the President of India. ''No other banquet speech by the distinguished visitor is scheduled either in Delhi or at any other state capital,'' the spokesman said.

Before the queen's arrival, there was no suggestion from British officials that another banquet speech be included in her programme.

Hence, the question of cancelling a banquet speech that had never been included in the official programme at any stage just did not arise, he said.

Official sources said the British media had been suggesting that India had bungled the queen's visit by cancelling the banquet speech in Madras at the last minute.

The sources said a British official informally asked his Indian counterparts on October 12, when the queen arrived in India, whether a banquet speech could be delivered in Madras. He was told that no such thing was planned.

The sources said the British officials had stated that the queen had, during her visit to India in 1961, delivered a speech at a banquet hosted by a state governor. Reacting to this, the Indian side pointed out that protocol had undergone a change in the last 36 years.

The sources added, ''It seems that British officials handling the queen's visit have been putting pressure on the governor's office to include the banquet speech by breaking the protocol.''

Asked who could be held responsible for creating this faux pas, the sources said, ''Obviously, the deputy high commissioner of Britain in Madras.''


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