EDINBURGH, Scotland — The Commonwealth Games, already plagued by the withdrawal of African states, were thrown into further chaos Saturday as the number of nations boycotting to protest Britain's South African policy rose to 23.
The West African country of Gambia and seven Caribbean nations were the latest to ban their athletes from taking part in the games, scheduled to start in Edinburgh on Thursday.
But India, an influential member of the 49-member Commonwealth, said it would not join a boycott if British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher agrees to measures against Pretoria at a group summit in London next month.
Countries withdrawing from the games so far--more than a third of those eligible to participate--have called on Britain to impose economic sanctions against South Africa to protest its apartheid system of racial separation.
But an Indian Foreign Ministry statement did not specify what measures Britain should agree to support at the London meeting with Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, the Bahamas, Canada and Australia.
An Indian pullout would not only deal a heavy blow to the prestige and credibility of the games, but would also have serious implications for the future of the Commonwealth grouping, according to political analysts.
The seven Caribbean nations that announced pullouts Saturday were Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The St. Lucia team was recalled en route.
3 Canceled Earlier
Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Bahamas canceled earlier.
Fifty-eight territories are eligible to join the games. The Commonwealth itself comprises 49 nations, linking Britain and its former colonies. However, the games are also open to other associated places such as regions of the United Kingdom and dependent territories such as the Falkland Islands and Hong Kong.
Those that have withdrawn now include Antigua, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Dominica, Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Malaysia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Originally, 3,151 athletes and officials had been scheduled to arrive for the event, but games officials said they now expect a third of the participants to be absent when the games get under way.
Commonwealth members that will play or whose decisions are pending: Australia, Bermuda, Botswana, Brunei, Canada, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Cyprus, England, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Gibraltar, Grenada, Guernsey, Hong Kong, India, Isle of Man, Jersey, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Montserrat, New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Vanuatu, Virgin Islands, Wales, and Western Samoa.