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India and the Idea of Commonwealth

Ever since the London Declaration of 1949, which recognised the contemporary Commonwealth, India has endured a central spot in this voluntary organisation of 54 sovereign states. It was India’s choice in 1948, as a freshly sovereign Republic, to continue in the Commonwealth which guided other Asian and African states to become a member of the group and which unlocked the age of the contemporary Commonwealth. Later, it was decisively recognised that becoming a member the Commonwealth no longer essentially involved unrelenting loyalty to the British Crown. Simultaneously, the term ‘British’ was removed from the association’s designation to echo the Commonwealth’s shifting charisma.

Nevertheless in today’s time, Indian political leaders have not been present at its high-level meetings, either due to lack of time or intentional evasion. This absenteeism has not gone unobserved among those who analyse the Indo-Commonwealth association’s prospective for aiding India’s enduring strategic objectives. In spite of India’s long-standing links with the Commonwealth from the time since independence, has the association been of any importance to India’s vibrant safekeeping and growth objectives in the earlier decades? Moreover, when several other forums also discourse the Commonwealth’s ethics of “democracy, freedom, peace, the rule of law and opportunity for all,” what is the status of the group at present to an emerging global power like India? It is a virtuous query as to whether India should be in the Commonwealth at all. It is, after all, a club that rejoices maybe the most ruthless empire the world has ever seen: it is beyond belief how heartlessly the British instigated up to 30 million starvation deaths in the 1890s and more than a few million starvation deaths in the 1940s.

Why does India require this club? India has other networks with many of the most important countries there. Britain sums for gradually miniscule: it is a non-entity. Canada is vital for its mineral assets, so is Australia, but both are snubbing to make available uranium for India’s dynamic nuclear programs. South Africa is a budding major power, but India is at present involved with them in the South-South fusses. India is the leading member state of the Commonwealth, with approximately 60% of the total populace of the association. It is the fourth leading donor to the Commonwealth finances and packages. It offers the leading number of technical professionals involved by the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation prolonging support to emerging Commonwealth countries after the UK.

Today, British imperial rule has been substituted by the regime of brown bosses who are in the same way proficient at ransacking India’s resources. Maybe this is why it makes a peculiar kind of logic for India to endure in the Commonwealth: the empire remains, apart from that the group of actors have changed. Yet, in today’s jam-packed bazaar of international organisations, the Commonwealth is trapped in an existential dilemma about its role albeit upholding democracy, global understanding and the wellbeing of susceptible states.

There is an increasing frustration among member states of the Commonwealth, both rich and poor. The major contributors — Britain, Australia, and Canada — deliver approximately two thirds of capital for the authorised Commonwealth organisations and are dejected with the absence of political action. Minor contributors also appear unenthusiastic to pay into a club that provides discreetly tiny undeviating profit. Few member states, basically Britain and other developed countries, want the Commonwealth to play a decisive role in upholding human rights and democracy. The majority of members would rather prefer a silent organisation, delivering technical aid and organising an occasional summit meeting. As a matter of fact, there are very miniscule profits these days for members of this club.

But from a political and strategic perspective, a larger Asia-Pacific alignment to the Commonwealth could bolster India’s struggle to balance Dragon’s aggression. The Commonwealth could make available a separate, feasible stage to get together Asian and South Pacific countries on security and commercial matters. The benefit of modelling such a subgrouping is that it would not consist of the United States, whose existence may otherwise send warning bells to Beijing. Obviously, this must be done carefully, as the Commonwealth was not considered to have grudges against any state. Nevertheless, it bids a great deal in terms of advancing significant collaboration in the domains of maritime security, counterterrorism, and fighting money laundering and organized crime—all of which are crucial to India’s upcoming security necessities.

The Commonwealth is distinctive for its trans-regional structure and peace-making tactic to prickly political issues. India is a prototype of the Commonwealth with respect to egalitarian principles, peace and stability, multicultural diversity, and commercial and scientific development. As a nation enthusiastic to display its fresh engagement in international organisations, it is logical for India to extend its affairs with prevailing ones like the Commonwealth. At a time when the regional enterprises to which it is a participant—such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation—are still lagging behind their capacities, India could consider the possibility of establishing a discrete subdivision of Asia-Pacific states; there are eighteen such states in the Commonwealth. In addition, India could turn into an economic channel between the Asia-Pacific subregional collaboration to boost financial and commercial affairs with the nineteen African members of the Commonwealth. In other words, the Commonwealth could be restructured to work at the level of sustainable regions and with several frameworks.

The Commonwealth can be perceived as a time-tested platform where India can construct, restart, and redefine relations with the organisation’s other fifty-two member states in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Regardless of its colonial backgrounds, it is the first association that offered India with an understanding of the world order decades before it attained liberation. After freedom from the British regime, the Commonwealth has aided India’s welfares in diverse means: upholding pleasant affairs with the ex-colonial power and other states of the Western bloc; displaying team spirit with lately joined African states, along with small Pacific island nations, by increasing commercial ties and financial aid; and exhibiting its diplomatic and administrative proficiencies by holding a Commonwealth Summit in addition to the Commonwealth Games.


Pursuing M.A Politics: International and Area Studies from Jamia Millia Islamia. Interests: Foreign Policy, Global Issues, Area Studies.

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