Amitabh Sharma, Features Coordinator
India is pushing for a stronger foothold within the British Commonwealth and is, in fact, putting forward seasoned diplomat Kamalesh Sharma as secretary general.
"The Caribbean members have a significant role in the body," Sharma told The Sunday Gleaner. "I have toured the region and am very upbeat about getting support from Jamaica."
Sharma, who is currently India's high commissioner to the United Kingdom, called on Dr. Kenneth Baugh, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, last Thursday, to present his candidature and seek Jamaica's support.
"His Excellency Sharma visited Jamaica to explain his vision for the Commonwealth and how strongly India has been advocating the cause of small member states and working to strengthen the Commonwealth," said Bimal Saigal, second secretary and acting high commissioner of India to Jamaica. "Given India's broader global engagement, the Commonwealth will continue as a vehicle for projecting our global aspirations."
Sharma, who is also a member of the board of governors of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation, out-lined his vision for the region.
"I would like to utilise India's vast information technology expertise to make this region competitive in the global market," he said. "This would be my agenda through the Commonwealth if I am chosen, else I will push it from my country's government.
"Jamaica and India have long and time-tested friendly relations," said Saigal. "In view of our good and friendly relations and our continued cooperation in the Commonwealth, we are hopeful of Jamaica's support for our candidature."
Sharma was the first special representative of the United Nations Secretary General to Timor Leste. As India's Permanent Representative to the U.N. offices in New York and Geneva, he was the spokesman for developing countries in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Develop-ment during the Uruguay Round of multinational trade negotiations.
India is the largest member state of the Commonwealth, with nearly 60 per cent of the total population of the association. It is the fourth- largest contributor to the Commonwealth budgets and programmes. It provides the largest number of technical experts engaged by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, extending assistance to developing Commonwealth countries, after the United Kingdom.
Pitted against Sharma in the election is Michael Frendo of Malta and Indian-born British businessman, Mohan Kaul.
Sharma left Thursday for Belize. He will also visit Cameroon and Gambia. Elections for the Secretary General are scheduled for during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kampala, Uganda, starting November 23.