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Narendra Modi next week will become the first Indian prime minister in almost a decade to attend a meeting of the heads of Commonwealth nations. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Narendra Modi next week will become the first Indian prime minister in almost a decade to attend a meeting of the heads of Commonwealth nations. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Commonwealth meet: India to walk tightrope on UK-Russia face-off

UK is looking for support from Commonwealth nations to bring out a strongly worded statement slamming Russia for using a lethal nerve agent on British soil

New Delhi: India will walk the diplomatic tight rope this week during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meet (CHOGM) in London as the UK looks for support from the 53 member grouping in bringing out a strongly worded statement slamming Russia for the alleged use of a lethal nerve agent on British soil.

This is the first appearance by an Indian prime minister at a CHOGM in almost a decade and Modi could announce an increased assistance package to help small developing countries within the grouping meet the challenges like climate change and sustainable development, two people familiar with the development said. The theme of the two day summit is “Towards a common future," with the focus on boosting intra-Commonwealth trade and investment, increasing cooperation across security challenges including global terrorism, organized crime and cyberattacks and helping small states deal climate change and other global crises.

Modi’s London visit comes in the middle of a UK-Russia diplomatic face-off over British allegations that Russia masterminded the use of a nerve agent to poison a former Russian military intelligence officer and his daughter in the UK last month—an allegation strongly denied by Moscow. The international chemical weapons watchdog Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons last week backed the UK’s findings on the identity of the chemical. This is expected to strengthen the UK’s push for a strongly worded reference on Russia in the Commonwealth communiqué—something India would like moderated or preferably deleted. This is due to India’s traditional ties with Russia as well as concerns of a closer friendship between Moscow and New Delhi’s strategic rival Beijing.

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