A toast at the top table

A gathering of journalists, academics and dignitaries joined members of The Democracy Forum to welcome the new Indian High Commissioner to his post in London


The House of Lords was the prestigious setting for a lunch hosted by The Democracy Forum in honour of the new Indian High Commissioner, H.E. Mr Navtej Sarna, on Tuesday April 26.

Warm spring sunshine allowed the select group of guests to assemble on the Home Room terrace for aperitifs before moving on to the Attlee Room for a delicious three-course meal.

H.E. Mr Navtej Sarna, Indian High Commissioner, addresses the assembled guests
H.E. Mr Navtej Sarna, Indian High Commissioner, addresses the assembled guests

The twenty-six guests came from various backgrounds, and included peers Lord Diljit Rana and Baroness Shreela Flather; The Democracy Forum’s chair Sir Peter Luff, a former MP and defence minister and now chairman of the Lottery Heritage Fund; Sir Mota Singh, Britain’s first Asian and Sikh High Court judge; Mr Bob Blackman MP; poet and broadcaster Chaman Lal Chaman; Dr Gareth Price, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House’s Asia Programme; and writer/ military historian Victoria Schofield. Other prominent academics and journalists also joined the gathering, as well as members of the High Commission’s diplomatic staff and The Democracy Forum.

Before lunch began, former BBC journalist Rita Payne, public relations director of The Democracy Forum, welcomed the High Commissioner on behalf of the organisation, and TDF’s vice president Tom Deegan gave a brief account of the Forum’s goals and objectives –  promoting peace, democracy and the rule of law in order to eliminate religious fundamentalism and terrorism from our global communities – and its activities over the past years in pursuit of these goals, including creating platforms for dialogue and reasoned debate.

An excellent lunch followed, accompanied by plenty of lively conversation. Afterwards, Mr Deegan proposed a toast to the High Commissioner, then H.E. Mr Sarna thanked the organisers and gave a short address to the gathered guests. Terrorism, he said, is an existential threat to all civilised countries, and in light of this, he voiced his support for The Democracy Forum’s valuable work and ideals.

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