Hamid Ansari in Perth for CHOGM summit

Perth: Vice-President Hamid Ansari arrived here today to participate in the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting where India is set to oppose setting up of a human rights monitor and reject any move to reconsider Sri Lanka as a venue of the next summit.

Ansari, who is standing in for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the summit, is expected to underline that the grouping stay focussed on development challenges faced by member nations and strengthen existing institutions. Ansari and his wife Salma were received at the airport here by Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith and Brenden Grills, the Regional Development Minister of Western Australia.

India has made it clear at official level meetings that one of the recommendations of the 11-member Eminent Persons Group on setting up of a rights monitor amounted to duplication of what the UN has been doing through its rapporteurs. On demands by a section of members to reconsider Sri Lanka as the host of the next CHOGM summit, Ansari said that the decision to hold the next CHOGM in Sri Lanka was already taken in 2009. "Well, as far as we are concerned, the decision to have the next CHOGM in 2013 was taken at the meeting in Port of Spain. That is a decision and that is the end of the matter," Ansari told reporters accompanying him to Perth.

The demands for change in venue of the next summit in Sri Lanka has been raised by an influential section of members who have questioned the island nation`s record on alleged war crimes during it`s fight against LTTE.  Ansari also pitched for an international mechanism to check the scourge of terrorism. "In all such meetings, the question of united action against terrorism does come up," he said when asked whether terrorism would be discussed in the CHOGM meeting.

The Vice President flagged food security as an "important element" in the discussions at the meeting of leaders from countries, most of which were former British colonies. "If international arrangements can be improved by which food security concerns of scarcity states are addressed, it would be a great step forward," Ansari said. He pointed out that 34 of the 54-member nations were small states many of which face problems which are "urgent and serious" in nature. Besides issues related to economic and social development, food and energy security, the CHOGM is also expected to deliberate on the recommendations of the Eminent Persons Group for sharpening the impact, strengthening the networks and raising the profile of the Commonwealth. These recommendations also include a proposal setting up a monitoring group for democracy, rule of law and human rights.

"The responsibilities spelt out in this would seem to undermine the role of both the Secretary General and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) itself which is actually dealing precisely with these issues," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai had said.

"The real focus of the Commonwealth should be on the development challenges which are uppermost on the minds of a vast majority of members. While we support the important values of the rule of law, democracy and human rights, we believe the Commonwealth should focus on strengthening existing institutions rather than create new ones," he had said. The CHOGM will also consider a proposal for re-election of India`s Kamalesh Sharma as the Secretary General of the organisation.

Ansari is standing in for the Prime Minister at the summit. Singh has to be in Cannes next week for the G20 Summit followed by the SAARC Summit in Maldives on November 11-12 and the East Asia Summit in Indonesia on November 17. This will be followed by a visit to Singapore.

CHOGM takes place against the backdrop of challenges like the global financial crisis and the focus of the deliberations would be on building resilience in member-nations, particularly small states, to tackle the situation. The official theme for CHOGM 2011 is `Building National Resilience, Building Global Resilience`. A joint communique spelling out the position of the Commonwealth on major issues will be adopted at the end of the summit. A stand-alone Declaration on Food Security Principles is also expected to be negotiated and adopted. The Commonwealth Day theme-`Women as Agents of Change`-is significant as the Commonwealth`s first woman Chair-in-Office Kamla Persad-Bissesar, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, will hand over the baton to another woman Julia Gillard.