PM Modi uses soft power of cricket at Commonwealth summit
India, as one of the foremost cricket-playing countries, offered on Friday to train youngsters from Commonwealth countries at its world-class facilities under a plan that drew much applause at the meeting of heads of state and government in London.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the heads of 52 other countries that India would train 30 boys and 30 girls under the age of 16 every year with the help of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The offer was widely welcomed, officials said.
India also committed itself to doubling its contribution to Commonwealth offices of small states in New York and Geneva, and to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London to enhance its ability to deliver tailor-made assistance to smaller countries.
A legacy of colonial rule, cricket has emerged as one of the most popular sports in Commonwealth countries such as India, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and West Indies.
The idea is to reach out to smaller countries that do not have similar cricket facilities and access to coaches, and lay a network of what will be the future generation of the Commonwealth. Out of 53 countries in the bloc, 31 are small states, many of them islands.
Rudrendra Tandon, joint secretary in the external affairs ministry, said: "The overall objective of the Prime Minister's participation at this Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (is signalling) our stepped up engagement with the Commonwealth.
“It conveys India's desire to see the Commonwealth increase its focus on developing country priorities."
India’s capacity-building efforts includes training programmes for island and coastal states at the National Institute for Geography in Dona Paula, Goa.
A communique issued at the conclusion of CHOGM mentioned the Commonwealth’s support to Bangladesh on the issue of Rohingya refugees and asked Myanmar to end violence against the minority.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Modi did not meet his Pakistani counterpart on Thursday, and had plans to do so on Friday.
After the conclusion of the CHOGM in Windsor on Friday, Modi was scheduled to leave for Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel before returning to New Delhi.