India on Tuesday said it found Commonwealth as a useful forum and explained vice president was “second highest ranking” person in the country in the wake of adverse comments about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM) in Perth.
The 54-nation CHOGM summit is scheduled for October 28-29, where Vice-President Hamid Ansari will represent India.
Asked about comments on the prime minister's absence, foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai said it was due to “heavy” schedule of Singh that vice president is attending the meet.
“In our system, the vice president holds a position of great importance. He is second in the warrant of precedence,” Matahi said, adding that Ansari has “a vast experience in international relations”.
However, there were many protocol issues that had to overcome before as the summit is attended by the head of government. In Australian scheme of things, there is no exact equivalent for Indian vice-president.
Ansari will also hold bilateral talks with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. India is expected to press the issue of access to uranium, which is currently barred under Australian law to those countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Mathai also defended the relevance of the 54-nation club of former colonies of the British empire amid growing scepticism about the grouping’s relevance.
“The Commonwealth retains its relevance. It has evolved considerably since it was founded in 1959. It's a useful forum for assistance of technical and economic nature to many countries,” said Mathai.
“It has emerged as a one-stop shop for many of its members to easily access a variety of assistance and support in areas such as technical advice, financial support, consultancies, feasibility reports, managerial training and skill development,”