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Common wealth? on Commonwealth leaders’ summit (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper II)

CHOGM London: Attempt to revive
The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) held in London came with hopes of a “re-energised Commonwealth”. To begin with, the summit was being held in the U.K., the founder of the grouping of mostly former British colonies, after 32 years. Besides, Queen Elizabeth II, the head of CHOGM, attended the summit, which she has done infrequently in the last few years owing to her health.  CHOGM members were looking to revive the 53-nation grouping as Commonwealth 2.0, amidst Britain’s rocky exit from the EU.

Greater role expected from India
In India too, the summit was seen to be a promising place to play a leadership role, and Prince Charles’s visit to Delhi to invite Prime Minister Narendra Modi bolstered that belief. Mr. Modi was the first Indian Prime Minister to attend CHOGM in a decade, after Manmohan Singh skipped the summits in Australia (2011) and Sri Lanka (2013) over bilateral differences, and Mr. Modi skipped the summit in Malta (2015) out of indifference. So it was widely expected that India would step up to a bigger role, and help chart a future course for the Commonwealth.

Outcome of commonwealth

  1. Given the expectations, the outcome of the meet was underwhelming. It was announced Prince Charles would ‘succeed’ his mother as the head of the Commonwealth, ignoring calls for the position to be more democratically shared or rotated.
  2. There were substantive statements on the Blue Charter on Ocean Governance and on the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment, which could together counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

But there was little by way of a road map to achieve the goals.

  1. Prime Minister Theresa May apologised for her Home Office’s threat to deport thousands of immigrants brought as manual labour in the 1940s on the ship Empire Windrush from the Caribbean but failed to convince most members of the Commonwealth that Britain would reverse its policies on immigration. The U.K.’s hard line on Indian “illegals”, which prevented the signing of a bilateral agreement on immigrant “returns” between Mr. Modi and Ms. May, too indicates that post-Brexit London is likely to welcome trade in goods from the Commonwealth, not services.

Way forward
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, to partake in a prosperity their forefathers built.

Commonwealth is an intergovernmental organization of 53-member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire. Commonwealth countries span Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific and are diverse—they are amongst the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries. Thirty-one of Commonwealth members are classified as small states—countries with a population size of 1.5 million people or less. The headquarters of Commonwealth is located at London, the United Kingdom.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
Every two years, the heads of governments of Commonwealth states meet to discuss issues affecting the Commonwealth and the wider world at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

All members have an equal say—regardless of size or economic stature. This ensures even the smallest of member states has a voice in shaping the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth. The Queen is also the monarch of 16 members of the Commonwealth, known as Commonwealth realms. The other Commonwealth members have different heads of state: 31 members are republics and five are monarchies with a native monarch.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015, also known as CHOGM 2015, was the 24th meeting of the heads of government of the Commonwealth of Nations. It was held in Malta.

The 25th CHOGM was originally scheduled to be held in Vanuatu in 2017 but could not be held after a cyclone devastated the country’s infrastructure in March 2015. The meeting was rescheduled for April 2018 in London, United Kingdom.

(Adapted from The Hindu and Background from PrepMate-Cengage IOBR Book, Chapter 2)

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