British Prime Minister Theresa May today said she would join a number of other members of the Parliament in wearing the khadi poppy in honour of the Indian soldiers killed during World War I.
The Poppy Appeal is an annual fundraising campaign for war veterans held in the lead up to Armistice Day on November 11, 1918, when the war came to an end and politicians and members of the public across the country wear a cloth-based poppy on their lapels as a sign of respect for the war dead.
A khadi version of the poppy was launched by Indian-origin peer Lord Jitesh Gadhia and the Royal British Legion for the first time this year as an "evocative symbol" of undivided India's contribution to the war effort.
"Over 74,000 soldiers came from undivided India and lost of their lives; 11 of them won the Victoria Cross for their outstanding bravery and played a crucial role in the war across multiple continents," said PM May, during her weekly Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons today.
The British PM was addressing a question by Conservative Party MP Tom Tugendhat, himself a former Army officer, if she would join him in wearing a khadi poppy.
"I would like to congratulate the Royal British Legion and Lord Gadhia for recognising this special contribution with the khadi poppy and I will certainly be interested in wearing a khadi poppy as we lead up to Armistice Day," PM May said.
She agreed that the gesture would recognise the "vital contribution" made by soldiers from around the Commonwealth, including India.
Mr Tugendhat, chair of the Commons' Foreign Affairs Committee which is currently conducting a "Global Britain and India" inquiry into India-UK ties, told Parliament that the "home-spun cotton remembers Mahatma Gandhi's and India's contribution to the war effort" and is a vital reminder of the UK's links to India.
The MP will be on a tour of India this weekend, during which he said he would lay a wreath in New Delhi to pay "tribute not only to our own war dead from this country but to those 3 million who came from the Commonwealth to serve in the cause of freedom".
Earlier this year, the Royal British Legion had announced that the massive contribution of Commonwealth forces 100 years ago, particularly from undivided India, would be a key focus during this year's 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
More than 1.3 million Indian soldiers served in the war across continents and Indians also made a generous financial contribution of over 20 billion pounds in today's money, as well as providing 3.7 million tonnes of supplies, over 10,000 nurses and 170,000 animals to the war effort.
"But figures alone don't do justice to the human dimension. These were predominantly young men, who had travelled thousands of miles by ship from their homeland to fight a distant war," the charity notes.
"The khadi poppy is a hugely symbolic and highly appropriate gesture to recognise the outsized contribution of Indian soldiers during World War I," adds Lord Gadhia.
Armistice Day, which refers to the armistice treaty signed by the Allies and Germany in France on November 11, 1918, is marked annually in an elaborate wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph in central London led by Queen Elizabeth II, as well as other smaller events around the country.
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