Britain’s Queen Elizabeth backs son Charles to take on Commonwealth role
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday held bilateral meetings with leaders of 11 countries here for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as Queen Elizabeth said she would like to see her son, Prince Charles, succeed her as the group’s head.
The formal opening of CHOGM sessions attended by 53 heads of state or government got off to a royal start at Buckingham Palace. The meeting is expected to be the last hosted or attended by Queen Elizabeth, who turns 92 on Saturday. She became head of the group in 1952 on the death of her father, King George VI.
Addressing the gathering that included Prime Minister Theresa May, dignitaries and members of the royal family, the queen said it was her “sincere wish” that Prince Charles takes over as the head to offer stability and continuity for future generations. Her remarks were seen as an answer to some who argue the position should be rotated around member states.
“It is my sincere wish that the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations and will decide that one day the Prince of Wales should carry on the important work started by my father in 1949,” she said.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Modi held talks Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The opening at Buckingham Palace included a 53-gun salute, guards of honour and the playing of drums and dhols. The master of ceremonies was Indian-origin BBC journalist and presenter Reeta Chakrabarti and the performers included vocalist Ranjana Ghatak.
May, representing Britain that takes over as the Commonwealth chair for the next two years, thanked the queen for her contributions to the organisation over the decades, and for opening “your homes to us, here in London and Windsor”.
She said: “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 – that the voice of the smallest member country is worth precisely as much as that of the largest; that the wealthiest and the most vulnerable stand shoulder to shoulder.
“You have seen us through some of our most serious challenges. And we commit to sustaining this Commonwealth, which you have so carefully nurtured. For your service, for your dedication, for your constancy – we thank you.”
The meeting, taking place in London for the first time in 20 years, is seen as a chance for Britain to reconnect with its former colonies and revitalise the loose alliance ahead of Brexit. The Commonwealth evolved out of the British Empire in the mid-20th century and the Queen has been its head since her reign began in 1952.
(With inputs from agencies)