India-Commonwealth relations

Importance of commonwealth for India
Key Points:
  • With the upcoming visit of Prince of Wales to India, India and the UK have an opportunity to think afresh about the future of the Commonwealth
  • In the past an archaic anti-colonial view has distorted India’s view of the commonwealth
  • And it was no surprise then that the Indian leadership stayed away from the last three Commonwealth summits in Malta, Colombo and Perth for one reason or another.
  • He is coming to India to invite PM Narendra Modi to attend the Commonwealth Summit in London in April 2018
  • The London Summit of the 52-nation forum, formally called the “Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting” is significant for many reasons
Significance of the summit
  • Charles is likely to take over from Queen Elizabeth as the head of the organisation
  • As the largest country in the Commonwealth, India will have a key role in formalising this transition
  • An even more important change is Britain’s r impending separation from the European Union
  • After the separation, the UK is making a big push to reconnect with its historic partners in the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere
  • The UK wants commonwealth should have greater role in resolving contemporary global problems like climate change, urbanisation and sustainable development
India’s Concern:
  • The political conservatives in India, who dismiss the Commonwealth as a relic from the past, may not find Charles too persuasive
  • Delhi’s lack of interest in the Commonwealth in recent decades was reinforced by the preoccupation with:
    • Managing the complex relationships with its immediate neighbours                 
    • Reordering its ties with the major powers
    • And becoming part of regional institutions like the Association of the South East
Nehru and Common wealth:
  • Despite considerable opposition from the Indian National Congress and many others, Nehru decided to join the Commonwealth.
  • Nehru understood that the Commonwealth and British connection gave India a measure of flexibility in a world engulfed by the Cold War
  • It allowed him to maintain a substantive political and economic link to the West even as he refused to become part of its alliance system
Importance of Commonwealth for both India and the UK
  • For a Britain that is reinventing itself politically after Brexit, the Commonwealth has become an important forum to recalibrate London’s international relations
  • For a rising India, the Commonwealth is the most natural theatre to demonstrate its credibility as a “leading power”
The way forward
  • The question today, then, is no longer about whether India and Britain should resurrect the Commonwealth, but how
  • Modi’s consultations with Charles this week should be the first step towards a revival of the Commonwealth at the London summit next April

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