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Commonwealth: 53 heads of state to decide Queen’s successor

Queen Elizabeth, 91, has headed the Commonwealth since 1952 and there is much speculation over her successor, since the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April is likely to be her last.

world Updated: Mar 14, 2018 22:15 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland (centre) announcing details of the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Commonwealth secretary general Patricia Scotland (centre) announcing details of the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.(HT Photo)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the heads of the 52 other Commonwealth member-states will decide who will succeed Queen Elizabeth as the head of the grouping, secretary general Patricia Scotland said on Wednesday.

Queen Elizabeth, 91, has headed the Commonwealth since 1952 and there is much speculation over her successor, since the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April is likely to be her last. Prince Charles has widely been mentioned as the next head of the group.

The theme of the April 16-20 CHOGM is “Towards a common future”, and will include events under four forums — business, youth, people and women. The event will be held across locations in London and Windsor, including Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

The business forum is likely to discuss issues such as launching a five-year visa for business travellers across Commonwealth countries and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. An innovation hub is likely to be set up, besides and toolkits of best practice in various areas of governance to be shared across the group.

The Theresa May government has been focussing more on the event in view of its trade ambitions related to Brexit.

“People have forgotten how valuable the Commonwealth can be. There is potential for trillion dollars-worth of trade between Commonwealth countries — analysis shows there is a 19% advantage when countries trade with other member-countries,” Scotland said.

She said there was “strong commitment” from India to the group, and noted that more than half of the Commonwealth’s 2.4 billion population was based there. Indian expertise in education, small and medium-sized enterprises, and law were specifically mentioned as valuable to the group.

Scotland and other leading lights of the Commonwealth secretariat would not discuss the issue of Queen Elizabeth’s succession or Prince Harry taking on a youth-related role beyond acknowledging the contribution of Britain’s royal family over the decades.

She also noted reports from Zimbabwe that it was keen to rejoin the group after the new political dispensation in Harare following Robert Mugabe’s resignation as president, but so far the first step in the process, a formal letter to the secretariat, had not been received so far.