Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left for Kampala, Uganda, on Thursday to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting beginning Friday. The east African nation is hoping the mega-event will help it shed the baggage of the brutal rule of Idi Amin in the 1970s.
Singh returned from a whistle-stop trip to Singapore for the India-Asean Summit late on Wednesday, dropped in at Parliament for a few hours and left on Thursday to attend the three-day summit of leaders who represent more than a quarter of the world's population. Around 5,000 delegates from across the globe are expected to attend the meet.
“India is strongly committed to the Commonwealth's role of nurturing a sense of belonging to a shared past and a shared destiny based on common values,” Singh said his pre-departure statement, referring to New Delhi’s commitment to the Commonwealth to play a key role in meeting global challenges.
On the agenda of the 53-nation Commonwealth club of mainly former British colonies are the global challenges of human rights, fair trade, terrorism, Millennium Development Goals and climate change. But the turmoil in Pakistan might end up dominating a large art of the summit, which will be formally inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth.
The Queen returns after 53 years to the nation better known for its former ruler, Idi Amin, on whose orders lakhs of people were massacred and thousands forced to flee. And it is this image President Yoweri Museveni wants to whitewash.
Over the past few months, the capital city has been cleaned up, the potholed roads repaired and the law against prostitution — to keep sex workers away from the heart of the city — pulled out.
Pakistan faces the risk of suspension from the Commonwealth in light of the emergency its president Pervez Musharraf has imposed in his country. The deadline for the General to give up his uniform and lift the emergency expires on Thursday but Islamabad wants more time.
New Delhi has maintained so far that it isn't taking sides; the recommendation, either way, will have to come from the nine-member ministerial action group that will meet in Kampala on Thursday.
A possible explanation for Delhi’s silence could be Islamabad’s promise to support the Indian high commissioner to the UK, Kamalesh Sharma, who is vying for the post of Commonwealth secretary general.