Indian High Commissioner: My country ‘stands ready’ to re-energise the Commonwealth for the common good
India is prepared to step up to the plate and help re-energise the Commonwealth. But it must meet the needs and aspirations of all members, writes Y.K. Sinha
The twenty-fifth Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) meeting, held in London and Windsor this month, provides a unique opportunity for the Heads of State and Government of the 53-member states to deliberate on the way ahead for the Commonwealth and its relevance in securing a better future for its 2.4 billion people.
The organisation is at an inflection point given the multitude of challenges that confront us and the pressing need for sustainable solutions. India is one of the founding members of the modern Commonwealth, with more than half of the people of the Commonwealth residing in the country. India would like to see this unique institution strengthened so that it can meaningfully address the aspirations of the people of the Commonwealth, particularly its youth.
The Commonwealth, with its largely shared history, has successfully brought together diverse countries, ranging from the smallest island states, to emerging economies and developed states, on a common platform based on a shared commitment to democracy, rule of law and social and economic development. Over the past seven decades or so, the ‘new’ Commonwealth has tried to assist the smallest and the most vulnerable countries, which constitute more than two-thirds of its membership.
A common language and similar legal and education systems bind member states in a closer embrace and provide a conducive environment for enhanced cooperation. Obviously, given the rich diversity of the Commonwealth, there may not be a meeting of minds on all issues. However, the areas of convergence outweigh those of divergence. The Commonwealth must leverage what we share for the larger good.
For the Commonwealth to emerge as a cohesive group of like-minded countries, acting together on critical issues confronting us, the focus on sustainable development, trade, education, health, youth and empowerment of women, is an imperative. The welfare of our citizens must be given primacy and the priorities of the larger membership in achieving this goal must be recognised and supported.
While the advocacy agenda of the Commonwealth has focused for too long on a prescriptive approach, we need to find a way to assist most member states in meeting their developmental goals through an institution building or capacity building approach, rather than a rights-based approach.
HRH Prince of Wales, during his visit to India in November last year, stated that “as the world’s largest democracy, India’s role in all of this could not be more crucial nor her contribution to the Commonwealth more essential”.
India is prepared to step up to the plate and play its due role in re-energising the Commonwealth for the common good, in consonance with the needs and aspirations of the larger membership. The forthcoming CHOGM will deliberate and suggest ways of rejuvenating the organisation and charting a course for the future, which will ensure that it remains relevant for its members. India is committed to working with all stakeholders to achieve this objective.
We feel that greater attention to promoting trade and investment in member countries should be central to the work of the Commonwealth in the interest of promoting a more prosperous future in a sustainable manner. A recent study conducted by the Commonwealth Secretariat, “Strengthening the Commonwealth Advantage: Trade, Technology, Governance”, concludes that even though the Commonwealth is not a formal trading bloc, the 53 Commonwealth members enjoy a formidable trade advantage. The study recognizes India’s key position in driving intra-Commonwealth trade and investment to over US$ 1.5 trillion by 2020 and points out that intra-Commonwealth investment has seen a dramatic rise driven by India in recent years, as it has been the leading recipient of greenfield FDI. The study also underlines the benefits that accrue to member countries as a result of the ‘Commonwealth Advantage’.
India would like to explore the possibility of an enhanced economic engagement that would benefit the larger membership, particularly developing countries that constitute the majority of the Commonwealth.
The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, will be attending CHOGM and his participation will underline India’s commitment to the future of the Commonwealth and its willingness to shoulder the responsibility, along with other members, particularly the UK as the host and the next Chair-in-Office, of ensuring a more prosperous, sustainable, secure and fairer future for the people of the Commonwealth.
Y.K. Sinha is the Indian High Commissioner to the UK