Basics and Backgrounds

  • The Commonwealth of Nations, at one time known as British Commonwealth,is an organisation of 54 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 was originally created as the British Commonwealth through the Balfour Declaration at the 1926 Imperial Conference and formalised by the United Kingdom through the Statute of Westminster in 1931.
  • 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.


  • The primary activities of the Commonwealth are designed to create an atmosphere of economic cooperation between member nations, as well as the promotion of democracy and good governance in them.
  • The Commonwealth is not a political union of any sort and does not allow the United Kingdom to exercise any power over the affairs of the organization’s other members.
  • While some nations of the Commonwealth, known as Commonwealth Realms, recognize the British Monarch as their head of state (and thus in theory still have some limited political ties to London), the majority do not.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

  • The maindecision-making forum of the organisation is the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), where Commonwealth heads of government, including (amongst others) prime ministers and presidents, assemble for several days to discuss matters of mutual interest.
  • The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is a biennial summit meeting of the heads of government from all Commonwealth nations.

London Meet of Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

  • London hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet (CHOGM) with the theme “Towards a Common Future” for 2018.
  • The four main goals for the summit were:
  • Prosperity: Boosting intra-Commonwealth trade and investment.
  • Security: Increasing cooperation to deal with security challenges including global terrorism, organized crime and cyber-attacks.
  • Fairness: Promoting democracy, fundamental freedoms and good governance across the Commonwealth.
  • Sustainability: Building the resilience of small and vulnerable states to deal with the effects of climate change and other global crisis.

Commonwealth Secretariat

  • The Commonwealth Secretariat, established in1965, is the main intergovernmental agency of the Commonwealth, facilitating consultation and co-operation among member governments and countries. It is responsible to member governments collectively.
  • The Commonwealth of Nations isrepresented in the United Nations General Assembly by the secretariat as an observer.
  • The secretariat organisesCommonwealth summits, meetings of ministers, consultative meetings and technical discussions; it assists policy development and provides policy advice, and facilitates multilateral communication among the member governments.
  • Prosperity
  • Security
  • Fairness
  • Sustainability


Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)

  • The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) is an independent, non-partisan, international nongovernmental organization, headquartered in New Delhi.
  • The organization works for the practical realization of human rights across the Commonwealth.  In 1987, several Commonwealth associations founded CHRI as a response to South Africa’s policy of racism.
  • CHRI’s objectives are to promote awareness of and adherence to the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other internationally recognized human rights instruments, as well as domestic instruments supporting human rights in member states.

Blue Charter on Ocean Governance

  • It emphasized fair ocean governance, more prosperous maritime and marine industries, sustainable ocean use, and secure marine space across the Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Cyber Declaration

  • It is the world’s largest and most geographically diverse intergovernmental commitment on cyber-security

Commonwealth Innovation Index

  • It was launched as part of a new Commonwealth Innovation Hub on the sidelines of the CHOGM.
  • It has been created in partnership with the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and its annual Global Innovation Index (GII).
  • India was ranked 10th on the new Index, topped by the UK, Singapore and Canada.

Commonwealth Innovation Fund

  • The Global Innovation Fund (GIF) will also host a new Commonwealth Innovation Fund (CIF) with size of 25 million pounds with financial commitments from member-countries.
  • It will deploy grant, equity and debt investments to support innovators across the Commonwealth to accelerate the development, testing and scaling up of evidence-based and market-tested innovations.

India & the Commonwealth

  • India became a member of the Commonwealth in 1947, the first with chiefly non-European populations.
  • India’s new political interest in the Commonwealth is evident by the participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London in 2018, marking the first Indian prime ministerial presence in a Commonwealth Summit after nearly a decade.
  • There are few reasons behind India’s political interest in the Commonwealth
    1. First, the membership of the Commonwealth, virtually spanning the entire globe. For India, membership and prospective leaders of the Commonwealth helps enhance its bilateral ties with individual countries.
    2. The growing importance of small states for India’s foreign policy. A high proportion of Commonwealth members, about 60 per cent, are small states.
    3. Commonwealth-wide presence of Indian diaspora.
    4. China is not and will never be a member of the Commonwealth.

Issues with the Commonwealth

  • The grouping has no political or economic power, and even former immigration advantages between Commonwealth countries have also ceased to exist.
  • Considering its declining importance former PM Manmohan Singh skipped two CHOGM meets, while Narendra Modi didn’t attend the last one, held in Malta in 2015.
  • 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.

Importance of Commonwealth

  • From the Indian perspective, the Commonwealth offers opportunities to reach out to small states that make up around 60% of Commonwealth members. In some of these states, India has no diplomatic presence, and forging relations with these countries could help India secure crucial votes during UN or multilateral contests it is involved in.
  • It is also a larger network of countries than any other, except for UN, which gives a chance for smaller countries to have their voices heard and make their projects and concerns known.
  • On a geo-political scale, the Commonwealth of Nations continues to be an impressive show of the force of a peaceful alliance. Also, for India it provides an excellent opportunity to give shape to a model of international co-operation and partnership distinct from that of China.
  • It also 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.

Maldives re-joined the Commonwealth 

  • The Maldives has recently re-joined the Commonwealth as 54th member, reversing its earlier policy of isolation.
  • The island nation was readmitted after showing evidence of functioning democratic processes and popular support for being part of the family of nations.