Indian is new Commonwealth secretary general
2 days ago
KAMPALA (AFP) — Commonwealth leaders unanimously appointed Indian Kamalesh Sharma as the grouping's new secretary general on Saturday, outgoing head Don McKinnon said Saturday.
Sharma is currently India's high commissioner to Britain and will take up his new job next year when New Zealander McKinnon steps down at the end of his second four-year term, the maximum allowed.
"It will be an honour and a privilege to serve this great international institution," Sharma said at a news conference outside the Ugandan capital Kampala where the 53-nation grouping is holding its biennial summit.
On Thursday Commonwealth foreign ministers overcame objections from members such as Sri Lanka to suspend India's arch rival Pakistan for failing to restore democratic freedoms.
The loose federation of mostly British former colonies represents nearly a third of the world's population from some of its poorest to some of its richest.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is at the Commonwealth meet in Kampala, and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee welcomed Sharma's appointment.
In a statement released by the foreign ministry in New Delhi, Singh said he was "delighted" at Sharma's election, adding that he was confident the Indian diplomat would "acquit himself well in his higher responsibilities as the first servant of the entire Commonwealth."
Mukherjee in his statement thanked the Commonwealth nations who had supported Sharma's candidature.
Sharma, who will take up his post on April 1, 2008, is the first secretary general from an Asian Commonwealth country in more than 40 years.
The appointment is also timely, as India -- the largest member state in the 53-nation grouping -- prepares to host the next Commonwealth Games in 2010.
Leaders at the summit, which began on Friday and runs until Sunday, are discussing issues such as global trade and climate change ahead of next month's crunch international climate change conference in Bali.