Special Correspondent

New Delhi: India has decided to field Kamalesh Sharma, High Commissioner in London, for the post of Commonwealth Secretary-General. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced this on Tuesday night.

The Secretary-General is elected by the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) for no more than two four-year terms. As the second term of present incumbent Don McKinnon of New Zealand comes to an end in March 2008, his successor has to be chosen at the CHOGM to be held in Kampala, Uganda, in November.

In a statement, the MEA said India believed that Mr. Sharma (66) is "eminently equipped to undertake this responsibility by virtue of the great interest he has shown in multilateral global affairs and in both South-South and North-South relations and the experience he has gained in these areas in the course of his distinguished diplomatic career, as well as the assignment which he has undertaken on behalf of the United Nations."

Mr. Sharma is the second person India has chosen to nominate to a top international job the first was Shashi Tharoor for the post of U.N. Secretary General.

India is believed to have secured the tacit support of Britain, Australia and New Zealand and a number of other Commonwealth members. Though a contest cannot be ruled out in the event of another country nominating a second candidate, Mr. Sharma is considered the front-runner.

Educated at Delhi and Cambridge universities, Mr. Sharma served in the Indian Foreign Service from 1965 to 2001 before retiring as India's Permanent Representative to the United Nations. From 2002 to 2004, he was the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative to Timor Leste. In 2004, he was named envoy to Britain.