M A I N   N E W S

India downscales representation 
Commonwealth ministerial group meeting in London
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 21
The transition of government here has created a situation wherein India has had to downscale its representation in an important meeting of Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which began in London today.

Pakistan’s re-entry into the Commonwealth — from where it was suspended following the October 12, 1999 military coup by Gen Pervez Musharraf — is one of the main issues to be discussed at CMAG.

Sources here said the Ministry of External Affairs directed India’s Acting High Commissioner in London, Mr Satyabrata Paul, to attend the meeting — a substantial downscaling of the level of representation. The conference, as the name CMAG suggested, was being held at foreign ministers’ level.

As a result, it was not clear what kind of brief Mr Paul had from the government, primarily because the BJP-led coalition was on its way out and the Congress-led coalition would be sworn in tomorrow evening.

The sources said most likely Mr Paul’s limited role would be of a silent observer. At best he would tell the participants that the new government was still to take over and the new External Affairs Minister was yet to be named so it would take some time for the new government to formulate and articulate its policies.

India had opposed Pakistan’s incorporation again into the Commonwealth at the last CMAG meeting. The Commonwealth Heads of Government ,in their meeting in Durban in November 1999, had endorsed Pakistan’s suspension and called for the restoration of a civilian democratic rule without delay.

Under the provisions of the Harare Commonwealth Declaration and its Millbrook Action Program, Millbrook sets a time-frame of two years for such restoration. But following the ruling of Pakistan’s Supreme Court that the return to democracy should take place within three years, and General Musharraf’s agreement to respect this ruling, Commonwealth Heads of Government had accepted this longer transition period.

At the Coolum meeting in March 2002 of Commonwealth Heads of Government, it was decided that a Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) should be sent to observe the national and provincial assembly elections. A fresh complication arose when on August 21, 2002 the Legal Framework Order was issued which assigned specific and sweeping powers to the President, extending his authority at the expense of Parliament, including his capacity to override parliamentary legislation and to dismiss the elected Prime Minister and Parliament.

The COG was not persuaded of the overall fairness of the process and made a number of recommendations to the Secretary-General and the CMAG, including continued engagement with the Government of Pakistan and offer of technical assistance to the appropriate authorities. 


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