Commonwealth and India

Commonwealth and India

This article deals with ‘Commonwealth and India Relations – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Members 53 nations  (Rwanda newsest)(Maldives left in 2016 when dictatorship was imposed in country)  
Secretariat London  
Head Queen Elizabeth   2018 CHOGM : Prince Charles would ‘succeed’ Queen Elizabeth as the head of the Commonwealth. 
Secretary General Present : Patricia Scotland (2018-)   (Kamlesh Sharma (India : 2014-2018))  


  • Member nation has to be a democracy and follow the rule of law
  • Those member nations where democracy is sidelined on account of military coup etc are suspended from Commonwealth

Why did India join ?

  • Membership of Commonwealth helped India to improve her economic ties with other nations and seek aid from England
  • Also provided her with additional channel to conduct her foreign relations
  • To promote the interests of people of Indian origin living in various Commonwealth Nations

Indian role in Commonwealth 

  • India has fought against racism in South Africa and Zimbabwe etc
  • India has influenced other members of Commonwealth to protect interests of people of Indian origin
  • During Chinese aggression of 1962, Commonwealth  countries extended moral support and assistance to India


  • Commonwealth Head of Governments Meet
  • Heads of Governments of Commonwealth meet in CHOGM happening since 1971
  • First CHOGM was held in Singapore
  • Latest : 25th CHOGM held London (April 2018)
  • Theme: “Towards a Common Future

Relevance  Today

  • Commonwealth has gradually moved away from political issues to social and economic issues to make itself relevant again . In Cold War period , it played important role in ending  apartheid and colonialism 
  • Because of its composition (53 nations) , if the Commonwealth can agree on something important, it is already a prototype of a global idea
  • Commonwealth makes it incumbent on member states to hold free, fair and credible elections;
  • Commonwealth gets a lot of credit for helping end military rule in Pakistan in 2007 and it played a pivotal role in championing the boycott of Apartheid in South Africa.
  • It would be wrong to caricature the Commonwealth as a relic, given the countries with no historic connection with the “British Empire” (Mozambique and Rwanda) have decided to join. These countries can see the value of a global voluntary association of equal member states cooperating with each other in pursuit of commonly held goals.
  • The Commonwealth provides an international platform for small states in particular. Of  53 member states, 32 are classified as small states . In many other global arenas these voices are often not heard.
  • Commonwealth games held once every four years is a popular event and is looked forward by all the world.
  • After BREXIT, it is expected that its role will increase . Leaders of Great Britain are making statements to leverage Commonwealth to act as alternate platform after their exit from EU
  • In CHOGM 2018,  there were substantive statements on the Blue Charter on Ocean Governance and on the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment, which could together counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 


  • Relic of old times and tool of UK to maintain her fast losing position as super-power
  • Grouping has no political or economic power .  Considering its declining importance, former PM Manmohan Singh skipped two CHOGM meets and Narendra Modi didn’t attend the last one
  • Amidst the calls for the position of Commonwealth Head to be more democratically shared or rotated the announcement of Prince Charles as the successor has also put a dent on its democratic credentials.

Leave a Comment