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 an important pillar of the GS-2 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


About

Members

Association of nations that were colonies of England previously.
Total Members: 54 nations  
Newest Entry: Rwanda 
Secretariat London
Head

Queen Elizabeth 
It was announced at CHOGM (2018) that Prince Charles would ‘succeed’ Queen Elizabeth as the head of the Commonwealth.  
Secretary-General Present: Patricia Scotland (2018-)
Commonwealth and India

Requirement

  • Almost all the members are former colonies of England. 
  • Member nation has to be a democracy and follow the rule of law.
  • Those member nations where democracy is side-lined on military coups etc., are suspended from Commonwealth.


Why did India join?

  • Membership of the Commonwealth helped India to improve her economic ties with other nations and seek aid from England.
  • Membership also provided India with an additional channel to conduct her foreign relations.
  • As a Commonwealth member, India can 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, Zimbabwe etc.
  • India has influenced other members of the Commonwealth to protect the interests of people of Indian origin.
  • During the Chinese aggression of 1962, Commonwealth countries extended moral support and assistance to India.


CHOGM

  • CHOGM or Commonwealth Head of Governments Meet is the meeting of Heads of Governments of Commonwealth nations.
  • The first CHOGM was held in Singapore in 1971.
  • Latest: 25th CHOGM was held in London (April 2018) 
  • Theme: “Towards a Common Future“.


Relevance of Commonwealth  in today’s world

  • Commonwealth has gradually moved away from political issues to social and economic issues to make itself relevant again. It played an important role in ending apartheid and colonialism in the Cold War period. 
  • Because of its composition (54 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 that countries with no historical 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 to pursue commonly held goals.
  • The Commonwealth provides an international platform for small states in particular. Of 54 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, the role of the Commonwealth has increased. The leaders of Great Britain want to leverage Commonwealth as an alternate platform after their exit from the 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. 


Problems faced by Commonwealth

  • Commonwealth is a relic of old times and a tool of the UK to maintain her fast losing position as super-power.
  • The 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 (at CHOGM (2018)) as the successor has also put a dent in its democratic credentials

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