VP Hamid Ansari in Perth for CHOGM Summit

Sagar Kulkarni | Perth
VP Hamid Ansari in Perth for CHOGM Summit
Vice-President Hamid Ansari arrived here today to participate in the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting where India is set to oppose setting up of a human rights monitor and reject any move to reconsider Sri Lanka as a venue of the next summit.

Ansari, who is standing in for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the summit, is expected to underline that the grouping stay focused on development challenges faced by member nations and strengthen existing institutions.

Ansari and his wife Salma were received at the airport here by Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Brenden Grills, the Regional Development Minister of Western Australia.

India has made it clear at official level meetings that one of the recommendations of the 11-member Eminent Persons Group on setting up of a rights monitor amounted to duplication of what the UN has been doing through its rapporteurs.

On demands by a section of members to reconsider Sri Lanka as the host of the next CHOGM summit, Ansari said a decision to hold the next CHOGM in Sri Lanka was already taken in 2009.

"Well, as far as we are concerned, the decision to have the next CHOGM in 2013 was taken at the meeting in Port of Spain. That is a decision and that is the end of the matter," Ansari told reporters accompanying him to Perth.

The demands for change in venue of the next summit in Sri Lanka have been raised by an influential section of members who have questioned the island nation's record on alleged war crimes during it's fight against LTTE.

Ansari also pitched for an international mechanism to check the scourge of terrorism.

"In all such meetings, the question of united action against terrorism does come up," he said when asked whether terrorism would be discussed in the CHOGM meeting.

The Vice President flagged food security as an "important element" in the discussions at the meeting of leaders from countries, most of which were former British colonies.

"If international arrangement scan be improved by which food security concerns of scarcity states are addressed, it would be a great step forward," Ansari said.

He pointed out that 34 of the 54-member nations were small states many of which face problems which are "urgent and serious" in nature.

Besides issues related to economic and social development, food and energy security, the CHOGM is also expected to deliberate on the recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group for sharpening the impact, strengthening the networks and raising the profile of the Commonwealth.

These recommendations also include a proposal setting up a monitoring group for democracy, rule of law and human rights.

"The responsibilities spelt out in this would seem to undermine the role of both the Secretary General and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) itself which is actually dealing precisely with these issues," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai had said.

"The real focus of the Commonwealth should be on the development challenges which are uppermost on the minds of a vast majority of members. While we support the important values of the rule of law, democracy and human rights, we believe the Commonwealth should focus on strengthening existing institutions rather than create new ones," he had said.
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