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Sansad TV: Diplomatic Dispatch- India and the Commonwealth

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Introduction:

The 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting took place in Kigali, Rwanda. External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar led the Indian delegation.

Commonwealth of Nations:

  • The Commonwealth of Nations, at one time known as British Commonwealth,is an organisation of fifty three states that were principally below the colonial rule of British Government. They came into existence with the proclamation of sovereignty of the state from the colonial rule of British Empire and were later given self-governance.
  • It proclaims that the Commonwealth nations are “free and equal.” The insignia of this Commonwealth Association is Queen Elizabeth II who is considered the Supreme of the Commonwealth nations.
  • The member states of the commonwealth are not legally liable or bound to each other. They are rather united by language, history, culture, likeness of the democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
  • Their values are listed down within the Commonwealth Charter and the hands of harmony towards the member states are extended by the Commonwealth Games held every four years.
  • Former British mandates that did not become members of the Commonwealth are Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, British Palestine, Sudan, British Somaliland, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Commonwealth will lend greater depth to global outreach:-

  • Global interests:
    • India is already playing major role in international forums and its global interests are expanding .So India must make the best use of all available multilateral forums, including the Commonwealth.
    • It can become a platform to demonstrate its leadership credentials. From trade and security, from connectivity to global governance, there are enough opportunities to tap into.
  • Economic:
    • As the soon-to-be largest economy in the forum, India can significantly increase its levels of economic assistance, give more to the maintenance of the Secretariat, boost the current efforts on capacity building, and above all, open its economy to facilitate trade liberalisation across the Commonwealth.
    • Promoting trade and development cooperation among members including support for small island, developing and least-developed countries and collective measures by members against the removal of democratically elected governments by unlawful means.
  • No Chinese interference:
    • Commonwealth will be one platform where Chinese presence will not hinder Indian ambitions. Taking leadership at this platform will help India project a sense of seriousness about is growing global profile.
    • It can also gain clout against one belt one road initiative of China and other important issues .
  • Fight for other states:
    • India is home to 60 percent of the Commonwealth’s population (and a substantial number of people of Indian descent live in other member states), and one-quarter of intra-Commonwealth trade involves the country.
    • Consequently, India is the most obvious member to lead a revitalization process to serve not only its own interests but also the interests of other countries who want the Commonwealth to emerge as one of many poles in a nonhegemonic regional and global order.
  • UN permanent seat:
    • The aspiration for India to take a more prominent place in international institutions manifests principally in its bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council gets impetus with a more prominent role in the Commonwealth would fit well with this aspiration.
  • Asia pacific:
    • India could weigh the option of forming a distinct subgroup of Asia Pacific countries; there are eighteen such countries in the Commonwealth.
    • It offers a great deal in terms of furthering meaningful cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism, maritime security, and combating organized crime and money laundering—all of which are critical to India’s future security needs.
  • By piloting and participating in a collaborative effort to reinvent the Commonwealth for the twenty-first century, it can demonstrate its collegial and consultative leadership style.

Concerns:

  • Many British intellectuals are deriding London’s new enthusiasm for the Commonwealth as mere nostalgia for the colonial era. They warn against the illusion that the Commonwealth can be a substitute for the European Union.
  • Labour mobility, a demand of businesses globally and certainly of India’s IT sector, was nowhere to be seen. Post-Brexit London is likely to welcome trade in goods from the Commonwealth, not services.

Way forward:

  • Commonwealth needs a focus on bringing greater economic prosperity for the peoples of the forum through an enhanced trade and investment relationship.
  • The Commonwealth could devote considerable energies towards the promotion of sustainable development and maritime security, which pose existential challenges to the many small and island states in the forum.
  • The Commonwealth remains a great platform for development aid, democratic values and educational opportunities, but its relevance is unlikely to increase unless it adopts a more egalitarian and inclusive attitude to its next generation of Commonwealth citizens.