At the special invitation extended by Prince Charles, Modi became the first Indian PM to attend the event in a decade. Thursday's meetings focused on the agenda of the summit. They will head to Windsor on Friday for a retreat and informal interactions.
While inaugurating the summit, Queen Elizabeth II asked leaders to appoint her son, Prince Charles, to succeed her as their head, making her first direct intervention into a succession plan for the 53-member grouping. Earlier, Prince Charles stressed that the modern Commonwealth had a vital role to play in building bridges among the countries and creating fairer societies and also a more secure world.
Earlier, India and the UK signed multiple agreements. PM Modi also utilised the opportunity to conduct 12 bilateral interactions with heads of governments. He met his Mauritius counterpart Pravind Jugnauth and Gambian President Adama Barrow.
He later shared pleasantries with President of Seychelles Danny Faure and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Keith Rowley.
He also met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and interacted with her. This is their first meeting since the Bangladeshi Prime Minister's visit to New Delhi last year. PM Modi also had one-on-one discussions with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Michael Holness and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Britain has laid out the red carpet for PM Modi, who has been given a limousine which took him to various venues. All other leaders were boarded in a coach. This is just one of many things that the UK has done to show the importance it gives to its relations with India.
The Queen, who would be celebrating her 92nd birthday on Saturday, said the Commonwealth will continue to offer stability and continuity for future generations. Over the past many years, there has been a debate to appoint a non-Royal person to head the grouping to distance it from the colonial roots.
But there are others who claim that it is the Royal family that holds the grouping of former British colonies together. "It is to the incredible credit of the Queen and the royal family that it (Commonwealth) still exists, because without them it wouldn't. People have danced around the edges of it for too long," said Lord Marland, chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC).
A decision on succession will be taken collectively by the 53 heads of governments of the Commonwealth and the subject is expected to be the central feature of deliberations when the leaders get together for the CHOGM leaders' retreat on Friday at the grand Waterloo Chamber of Windsor Castle. There is reportedly no general consensus over the Prince of Wales as the next Head of the Commonwealth, with India yet to confirm its stand on the matter.
Back in India, main Opposition Congress hit out at the PM, describing his conduct in London "cavalier and "hurting" India's national interests. Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said the Prime Minister's "boastful" claims on the surgical strikes neutralising cross-border terror are "embarrassing" because India continues to be exposed to multiple terrorist strikes from across the border, losing brave officers and soldiers. "He needs a firm reminder that India engages with its strategic partner countries with maturity and gravitas and does not take sides or make an uninformed statement on issues of disputes between two strategic partner countries," he said in a statement.
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