London: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings, including with his counterparts from Bangladesh, Australia and the President of Seychelles, on the sidelines of the multilateral Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London on Thursday.
Modi will be interacting with Sheikh Hasina, their first meeting since the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s visit to New Delhi last year. However, officials have indicated that no meeting or interaction has been requested or scheduled with the Pakistani Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, so far.
Some of the other world leaders expected to have one-on-one deliberations with the Indian prime minister during the CHOGM include Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Michael Holness.
Gambian President Adama Barrow, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the President of Seychelles Danny Faure are also on the list. The bilateral talks between Faure and Modi assumes significance after Seychelles ordered an inquiry into the leak of a highly classified agreement signed with India to develop infrastructure on Assumption Island, which lies southwest of the mainland of Mahe.
“The summit offers ample opportunity for leaders to interact in meeting rooms for bilateral discussions on matters of mutual interest as well as cooperation over Commonwealth issues,” a senior official said.The bilateral talks are scheduled as the formal heads of government meeting gets underway in London today following the formal launch by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
“Over many years you have been the Commonwealth’s most steadfast and fervent champion. You have been true to the deepest values of the Commonwealth? we commit to sustaining this Commonwealth, which you have so carefully nurtured,” British Prime Minister Theresa May said in reference to the Queen at her opening address.
The 91-year-old monarch, as the Head of the Commonwealth, will host a dinner for all 53 heads of government at the palace later in the evening today. “I had not been able to visit the last summit and this time, it was an honour that Prince Charles came personally to India last year to invite me for it. The Queen herself wrote a personal letter to me, a matter of great pride for India,” Modi said during his Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath diaspora event in London yesterday.
The executive session of the summit today will be followed by a retreat at Windsor Castle tomorrow when the leaders get together in an informal setting without any pre-set agenda or being accompanied by their top advisers.As Britain takes over the two-year Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth at the heads of government deliberations, it marks the last such summit to be hosted by the Queen.