S Jaishankar to meet Pakistan’s Hina Rabbani Khar?

As Rwanda’s capital Kigali is set to host the Commonwealth summit from today, Foreign Ministers of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will be in attendance and while Maldives will be represented at Presidential level, by its President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. EAM will be in Kigali from 23rd June to 25th of June for the summit.

Pakistan will be represented by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina R Khar. Initially Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto was to represent his country, but due to some personal issues he is skipping the mega meet. If FM Bhutto had gone, this would have been for the first time both External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar and Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister would have been present at any summit together. Last year EAM Jaishankar and the then Pakistani FM SM Qureshi were present together in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe for a meet on Afghanistan.

Sri Lankan foreign minister Prof. GL Peiris and Bangladeshi FM AK Momen will also be present, a bilateral with the Indian side cannot be ruled out. Remember over the weekend, Bangladeshi FM was in Delhi for a joint consultative commission meet.

Maldives President’s presence is important given that the country rejoined the grouping in 2020. Maldives President Yameen had pulled out of the 54-member grouping in 2016 after the Commonwealth criticised his government over his authoritarian actions back home, like the detention of opposition leaders and undermining the judiciary.

Leaders of Commonwealth countries meet every two years for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Since 1971, a total of 24 summits have been held, with the most recent being in British Capital London in 2018. PM Modi had attended the meet that time. The 2015 Commonwealth summit in Malta saw India being represented by the then EAM Sushma Swaraj.

Meanwhile, Rwanda is decked up as the country is ready to welcome the largest gathering of world leaders the African continent has seen in years. For Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame it will be a moment to show his country’s progress and economic growth. Almost 35 heads of state are expected, while other representations are at the foreign and official levels. Of the 54 countries, 53 are attending with Nauru excusing itself due to elections.

“We expect 35 Heads of State and other high profile guests representing countries and organisations. We will also have First Ladies and in total, we expect over 5,000 people,” said Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Rwanda Prof. Nshuti Manasseh who was quoted in Rwanda’s KT Press.

Brunei is represented by its Sultan, Eswatini by its king Mswati III even though 14 countries will be present at the Presidential level, 17 at the Prime ministerial level, and 10 at the foreign minister-level.

Countries represented at the Prime Minister level include Mauritius by PM Pravind Kumar, the UK by PM Boris Johnson, and Canada by PM Justin Trudeau. Countries represented by the foreign minister level are Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Malawi. Australia is represented by Deputy PM Richard Marles.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) has started on Monday, the official opening takes place on Friday, 24th June and will be followed by main high-level meetings of Heads on Friday & Saturday (24-25 June). The CHOGM summit was due to take place in June of 2020 but was postponed twice due to the COVID pandemic.

The Commonwealth is a group of 54 countries, almost all of them at one pointed under British rule and united by the common use of the English language. The grouping is home to 2.5 billion people and includes a mix of both developed and developing countries. The last country to join the commonwealth is Rwanda.