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Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Get together of 'PMs in waiting'

David Miliband (left) and Rahul Gandhi
The two men are tipped for bright futures

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband is visiting a top member of the Gandhi dynasty in a remote Indian village.

The meeting of Mr Miliband and Rahul Gandhi - son of murdered former PM Rajiv Gandhi - has been labelled as a get-together of two leaders in waiting.

Mr Gandhi is widely tipped one day to lead the Congress party, while Mr Miliband has faced constant speculation over his leadership ambitions.

The two men arrived in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday.

Traditional meal

They are staying in a village in the constituency of Amethi, which has long been associated with the Gandhi family.

Villager with cow dung to be used for fuel
Many Indian villagers rely on subsistence labour

Officials say that Mr Miliband has been invited by Rahul Gandhi to stay in the village, where he will be given a traditional meal with farmers on the floor of a villager's home.

"It will be a chance for Mr Miliband to see what life is like outside the cities," a British foreign office spokesman said.

The Indian press had a more colourful take on proceedings.

"It will be a coming together of two dynamic, forward-thinking and charismatic politicians who look set to play key leadership roles in their countries later in the 21st century," one commentator observed.

But there is some doubt as to whether Mr Miliband will really gain a true insight into rural Indian life.

"If he did, he might not have access to a proper latrine and clean drinking water, would be at risk from various diseases and would be too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer," one aid agency spokesman active in the area told the BBC.

"In parts of Uttar Pradesh there is only one doctor for 30,000 people."

On Wednesday night Mr Miliband will be sleeping in a "charpoi" - a bed built on a low wooden frame. Officials joke that he may look a bit jaded when he addresses a conference on terrorism on Thursday in Mumbai (Bombay).

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