Queen opens CHOGM 2011

Queen opens CHOGM 2011

Queen opens CHOGM 2011

Asking the 54-nation grouping to remain "fresh and fit for tomorrow", the head of the Commonwealth voiced the hope that the "results of the meeting would have a global impact" and that they would be "positive and enduring".

The short address by the Queen, wearing a powder blue silk jacquard dress designed by Angela Kelly, came after an elegant opening ceremony that had a mix of the modern and the traditional, with elders and youth of the Noongar people who inhabited this part of Western Australia, performing for the gathering.

Perth was on holiday for the opening day, with flag-waving residents lining the streets to catch a glimpse of the Queen, who is monarch of Australia and 15 other Commonwealth countries, amid tight security.

The opening event was also addressed by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is the new chair, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma and outgoing chair and Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Vice President Hamid Ansari heads the Indian delegation to CHOGM 2011. Gilard, in an ode to the Commonwealth, whose relevance is increasingly under question, said the grouping needed to have a "common voice, common goals and a common wealth".

Making a mention of some Commonwealth heroes - from Mahatma Gandhi to Desmund Tutu, she urged the gathered leaders to become agents of change, adding that "as the world changes, a wise institution changes".

Recalling how the Queen had described the Commonwealth as "the original world wide web", Secretary-General Sharma underscored the importance of the organisation transforming itself into a "21st century network".

Sharma, a former Indian High Commissioner to Britain, is up for a new term in office, and the current meeting is expected to consider a second term in office. India is the largest member of the Commonwealth, accounting for nearly 60 percent of its total population.  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 leaders will discuss a whole gamut of issues ranging from the promotion and protection of fundamental political values in the Commonwealth and the global economic situation and international trade.

Australia has circulated a concept paper on strengthening the Commonwealth to enable it to more effectively assist member nations in dealing with various challenges.
Ansari, who is standing in for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will also hold bilateral talks with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. India is expected to press the issue of access to uranium, which is currently barred under Australian law to those countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

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