India opposes moves against Colombo at Commonwealth meet

October 27th, 2011 - 7:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Perth, Oct 27 (IANS) The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) kicks off here Friday, with the Indian delegation keeping a wary eye on efforts to set up a human rights monitor and prevent Sri Lanka from hosting the next meeting.

Leaders of over 50 countries have gathered for the event that is expected to focus on development issues, the global economic crisis and a host of other concerns that affect members of the 54-nation grouping.

The Indian delegation, headed by Vice President Hamid Ansari, is expected to voice its opposition to a voluminous report by an Eminent Persons Group which has, among other things, recommended the setting up of a Commissioner for Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights.

New Delhi believes such a commissioner will undermine the role of both the secretary-general and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, and would only end up duplicating what the United Nations already does through its Rapporteurs.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, who is accompanying Ansari, has said that the grouping does not have the budget for such activity, and suggested that “the real focus of the Commonwealth should be once again on the development challenges which are uppermost in the minds of the vast majority of its members”.

“So, while we support the important values of democracy, rule of law and human rights, we believe the Commonwealth should focus on strengthening the existing institutions rather than trying to create new ones,” he said earlier.

The move to prevent Sri Lanka from hosting the next meeting owing to its human rights record and alleged war crimes is also likely to be opposed.

Ansari, in fact, was quite blunt when asked about the protest.

“As far as we are concerned, the decision to have the next CHOGM in Sri Lanka was taken at Port of Spain. That is a decision and that is the end of the matter,” he told reporters.

Ansari will also hold bilateral talks with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. India is expected to press the issue of access to uranium, which is currently barred under Australian law to those countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

India is the largest member of the Commonwealth, accounting for nearly 60 percent of its total population.

The re-election of Kamalesh Sharma, secretary-general of the Commonwealth and a former Indian high commissioner to Britain, will also be considered by leaders at the summit.

The official theme for CHOGM 2011 is ‘Building National Resilience, Building Global Resilience’.

A joint communique spelling out the position of the Commonwealth on major issues will be adopted at the end of the summit. A stand-alone Declaration on Food Security Principles is also expected to be negotiated and adopted.

The leaders will discuss a whole gamut of issues ranging from the promotion and protection of fundamental political values in the Commonwealth and the global economic situation and international trade.

Australia has circulated a concept paper on strengthening the Commonwealth to enable it to more effectively assist member nations in dealing with various challenges.

(Shibi Chandy can be contacted at

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