NEW DELHI: India is getting ready to play a larger role in the Commonwealth, a multilateral grouping that could now work very well for India’s global aspirations. With 53 countries and no Chinese presence, India is poised to give the Commonwealth a fresh sense of purpose.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to almost double India’s financial contribution to the Commonwealth when he heads to London this week for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). That will be followed by India indicating that it is ready to take on greater responsibilities in the Commonwealth and play a leading role in terms of increased Indian activity.
As it steps out as a large power, there is a sense in New Delhi that India needs to do more. This will also be the first time an Indian PM will be present at a CHOGM since 2009. Modi himself skipped the last one in Malta.
“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, deputy high commissioner of India to the United Kingdom.
Modi’s bilateral engagements in London will include an audience with Queen Elizabeth, who will be hosting possibly her last CHOGM summit. It’s still unclear who will take over from her as head of the Commonwealth, and this is expected to be discussed during the leaders’ retreat at the Waterloo Chamber of Windsor Castle, which is being thrown open for the occasion.
“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.
Modi arrives in the United Kingdom on Tuesday night after a bilateral meeting in Sweden and an Indo-Nordic summit with Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Finland in Stockholm.
In London, Modi will start off with a day of bilateral meetings on Wednesday before a CHOGM dinner hosted by British PM Theresa May at Sky Garden in London. The bilateral summit will stress on the “technology partnership”, which was started a while ago. This includes British companies “creating in India”.
India-UK trade rose 15% in the past year while Indian issuers raised 5.3 billion pounds in the London Stock Exchange. India is also the fourth largest investor in the UK. A significant outcome of the summit is likely to be focused on data protection and cybersecurity.