PM Narendra Modi seeks key role for India in Commonwealth amid China concerns

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday launched his Commonwealth outreach through a series of meetings with leaders of Indian Ocean Region, African, Caribbean and Pacific Islands. He plans to put India in the leadership position in the grouping where China is absent.

The meetings were significant in keeping with India’s continuous outreach as key player in the Indian Ocean Region and Africa amid China’s inroads.

Maritime cooperation was the key theme of Modi’s discussion with the leaders of Mauritius and Seychelles.

India’s focus at the meet is on common, fairer, secure, sustainable and prosperous future. Earlier, Queen Elizabeth II, the head of Commonwealth, opened the summit for what may be the last time. In her opening speech for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Buckingham Palace in London, the 91-year-old monarch described the group as “growing stronger year by year” and the world’s “great convening powers”, which would benefit from stability to be offered by the royal family.

“It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations – and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales will carry on the important work started by my father in 1949,” the Queen said.

Some of the other Commonwealth leaders who had one-on-one deliberations with Modi during the CHOGM included Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades.

An Indian PM has attended the Commonwealth summit, which is held every two years, after a hiatus of nearly a decade.

The last CHOGM was attended by India in 2009 in Trinidad and Tobago. PM Modi also announced a slew of funds for development and capacity building projects for countries in the grouping.

This includes raising to £2 billion from £1 billion in the area of Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation; opening Commonwealth sub fund in India-UN fund as grants of $ 50 million for 5years; enhanced contribution for Commonwealth small state offices in New York and Geneva; and training for cricket for 30 girls and 30 boys by BCCI.