UK wants India to take on more important role within Commonwealth: Diplomat

15 Apr 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the UK for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this week will mark India's enhanced engagement with the multilateral organisation, including increased financial and other contributions, according to a senior Indian diplomat here.
An Indian Prime Minister will attend the summit, which is held every two years, after a hiatus of nearly a decade, having skipped CHOGMs in Perth, Colombo and Malta since 2009. The Indian government has said that Prime Minister Modi's attendance at the summit, from April 18 to 20, symbolises the country's wider efforts to step up its role across global forums. "India's engagement with multilateral bodies has been increasing consistently and the Commonwealth is no different. There is a clear desire to play a greater leadership role in the international arena and the UK wants India, as the largest country in the Commonwealth, to take on a more important role within the organisation," said Dinesh Patnaik, the Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK. This stepped-up engagement is likely to take the form of increased activity within the Commonwealth, including greater resources and manpower as well as financial contributions.
According to senior officials, Prime Minister Modi's decision to attend the summit was also influenced by a very personal letter addressed to him by Queen Elizabeth II, the Head of the Commonwealth. As Britain takes over the two-year Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth at the heads of government deliberations, it will mark the last such summit to be hosted by the Queen. With the 91-year-old monarch having ruled out long-haul travel, she is unlikely to travel to any future CHOGMs to be hosted by other member-states. This has also triggered widespread speculation over whether her son and heir, Prince Charles, would be anointed as the next Head of the organisation. As the position is not hereditary, a decision on succession will be taken collectively by the 53 heads of government of the Commonwealth. This subject is expected to be the central feature of deliberations when the leaders get together for the CHOGM leaders' retreat on April 20 at the grand Waterloo Chamber of Windsor Castle.
The retreat is described as the high-point of the summit, when the leaders get together in an informal setting without any pre-set agenda or being accompanied by their usual coterie of civil servants and advisers. "At the retreat unique to the Commonwealth heads meet privately to discuss collaboration on global and Commonwealth priorities. They will also consider reform and renewal of the Commonwealth," a Commonwealth statement said.