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November 11, 1999
CHOGM expected to endorse Pak suspension
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting begins in Durban tomorrow to endorse the suspension of Pakistan from the grouping, draw up a new set of principles to fight the protectionist approach of the industrialised world and frame fresh strategies to promote democracy and human rights in the member nations.
The four-day summit, which will be inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth, is also likely to adopt a co-ordinated action plan to fight the menace of terrorism, which poses a serious threat to world peace.
Election of a new secretary general is also high on the agenda of the last summit of this millennium.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will represent India at the biennal summit which is being attended by heads of government of over 40 countries. Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga has decided not to attend the summit in view of the massive offensive launched by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the northern parts of that country.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and leaders of a number of African nations will attend the historical summit.
For the first time in the Commonwealth's history, the summit is being held without the representatives of military regimes or one-party governments. This clearly indicates the Commonwealth's resolve to take a harsh stand against those governments which show scant regard for democracy and human rights.
On Pakistan's suspension from the Commonwealth council following the military coup, the leaders appear certain to endorse the recommendations of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to suspend Islamabad from all ministerial level meetings.
The four-member CMAG team, which went to Islamabad to assess the political situation there, has prepared a detailed report on the state of affairs in Pakistan.
The leaders will also debate on issues like human rights and the need to create a more equitable global environment. Specific issues of trade, investment and development are other priority subjects for the Commonwealth leaders.
The Durban summit will also examine closely the concept of globalisation and its ramifications for developing countries. Apart from the widening gap in incomes, access to technology and strengthening human resources, the leaders have to adopt ''appropriate strategies towards addressing these crucial problems,'' Commonwealth officials said.
There is a general feeling among the member nations that the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and even the World Trade Organisation are dominated by the powerful and rich countries. This ''misconception'' has to be settled.
On the issue of terrorism, India is expected to make a strong plea for international co-ordination. Vajpayee is expected to raise the issue of crossborder terrorism, which poses a serious threat to peace in the region.
The situation in Afghanistan, East Timor and several parts of Africa will come up for detailed discussion during the summit.
The leaders will also exchange views on reforms in the United Nations so that the world body reflects realities of the 21st century.
The election of the secretary general will take place on the first day of the summit. Farooq Sobhan of Bangladesh and New Zealand Foreign Minister Don McKinnon are the main contenders for the post.
The Commonwealth officials said that a consensus may be arrived at on the choice of the new secretary general. However, it appears certain that McKinnon will get elected unopposed.
The leaders will hold an executive session soon after the opening ceremony. They will then retreat to George, near Cape Town, where they will exchange views on a plethora of international and regional issues. The leaders will also hold bilateral talks during the retreat.
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