Leaders from 53 Commonwealth countries, converged at the capital city Valleta of the Mediterranean island country Malta for the biennial summit of the Commonwealth countries on Friday; they are to explore concerted global efforts to deal with terrorism and tackle climate change. India’s Extrenal Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj represents the country at the three day summit happening over the weekend.
Queen Elizabeth II, who arrived Valleta on Thursday along with Prince Philip, inaugurated the Opening Ceremony of the summit of the grouping, born out of the British empire, in which India is the biggest member.
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, British Prime Minister David Cameron are among the leaders attending the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
The summit is scheduled to be addressed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French President Francois Hollande.
In his welcome address, Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat said combating terrorism and extremism should be the top most priority of Commonwealth and sought wider discussion among the member countries to deal with the challenge of climate change.
“We live in a time when young people within our Commonwealth are attracted to join terrorist groups. This should be part of our immediate fight,” he said.
Earlier, Cameron announced setting up of a Commonwealth unit to target the extremist groups fuelling terrorism. He said five million pound will be spent to help countries combat spread of “poisonous ideologies”.
Stating that the Commonwealth has a vital role to play in broadening international efforts to counter extremism, the Maltese Prime Minister said the civil society in these nations and education networks are “well placed to complement International efforts to build counter narratives to this “poisonous exrtemist ideology”.
He said in assurance to the fellow member nation representatives, by “working together we will defeat this extremism scourge that is a threat to us all.
Combating terrorism is the major focus of the summit in this Maltese capital which is taking place just two weeks after the grisly terror attack in Paris in which at least 130 people were killed and over 350 injured.
A special Executive Session on Climate Change will discuss various issues to tackle climate change with particular focus on producing a unified commitment by the Commonwealth countries at the Paris summit.
In her address, the Queen said she was particularly touched by a Commonwealth initiative aimed at saving the world’s forests.
CHOGM is held after every two years and the theme for this year’s meeting is ‘Adding Global Value’.
(With inputs from news agencies)