Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday had a series of bilateral meetings including discussions with Seychelles President Danny Faure and his Mauritius counterpart Pravind Kumar Jugnauth on the sidelines of the multilateral Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here. “Friend in an extended neighbourhood! PM @narendramodi and President of Seychelles, Danny Faure met on the sidelines of #CHOGM18 and discussed cooperation in areas of trade and investment and other bilateral issues,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted. Follow LIVE Updates Here
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 opposition in Seychelles has decided not to ratify the pact because of Assumption’s relative proximity to Aldabra atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is home to the world’s largest population of giant tortoises.
Cementing close friendship with Mauritius, Prime Minister Modi met his Mauritius counterpart Jugnauth and talked about cooperation in trade and investment, maritime cooperation and people-to-people ties, Kumar said.
The “pull-aside meetings” with world leaders included an interaction with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Gambian President Adama Barrow, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, St. Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Rick Houenipwela. Modi also interacted with President of Kiribati, Taneti Maamau, and Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, Gaston Browne.
Sheikh Hasina is set for an interaction with Modi, their first meeting since the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s visit to New Delhi last year. Some of the other world leaders expected to have one-on-one deliberations with Modi include Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Michael Holness.
Additionally, Modi is likely to interact with Dr Keith C. Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago. “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.
Officials had earlier indicated that no meeting or interaction has been requested or scheduled with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The bilateral talks took place as the formal heads of government meeting got underway in London today, following a formal launch by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
Prime Minister Modi was scheduled to address the second plenary meeting of the heads of government during the closed-door executive session of CHOGM. At the launch of the CHOGM executive session at Lancaster House open to the media, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The great strength of the Commonwealth is that all our members have equal status, an equal voice, and an equal right to make that voice heard. So, as we tackle these challenges, I want to hear from everyone, and everyone will have chance to speak.
“We face many challenges in the world today. But the Commonwealth is a unique organisation and, at this summit, we have an opportunity to deliver lasting change that benefits all of our 2.4 billion people.”
Later today, the 91-year-old monarch will host a dinner for all 53 heads of government at the palace. “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 had said during his ‘Bharat Ki Baat, Sabke Saath’ diaspora event in London last evening.
An Indian Prime Minister is attending CHOGM, 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 this symbolises the country’s wider efforts to step up its role across global forums. 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 close aides.
The summit concludes tomorrow when leaders will issue their communique and a leaders’ statement after their retreat. CHOGM takes place every two years in different Commonwealth countries, with the next host country also to be announced at the end of this summit.
Following the retreat, Modi will head back to India after a brief stopover in Berlin, Germany for his meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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