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‘Maldives rejoins Commonwealth’

  • Category
    India & world
  • Published
    13th Feb, 2020

The Maldives has rejoined the Commonwealth, bringing the total number of nations in the global organisation to 54.

Context

The Maldives has rejoined the Commonwealth, bringing the total number of nations in the global organisation to 54.

What is the Commonwealth?

  • The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal countries.
  • It is home to 2.4 billion people and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. 32 of our members are small states, including many island nations.
  • Its member governments have agreed to shared goals like development, democracy and peace.
  • The Commonwealth's roots go back to the British Empire. But today any country can join the modern Commonwealth.
  • Eight governments (United Kingdom, Australia, India, South Africa, Canada, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Pakistan) came together on 28 April 1949 to form the modern Commonwealth.
  • Since its formation, independent countries from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Pacific have joined the Commonwealth.

Background:

  • The republic quit the Commonwealth in 2016 after being threatened with suspension over its human rights record and lack of progress on democratic reform.
  • The island nation has been readmitted after showing evidence of functioning democratic processes and popular support for being part of the family of nations.
  • The Maldives, which last joined the Commonwealth in 1982, will now be part of the Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, in June.
  • The change came into effect just over an hour after the United Kingdom left the European Union.

Voluntary membership:

  • Members of the Commonwealth can leave at any time, as its membership is purely voluntary.
  • Pakistan left the association in 1972 - only to rejoin in 1989.
  • Similarly, The Gambia left the Commonwealth in 2013 and was allowed to return in 2018.
  • Zimbabwe’s membership was suspended in 2002 on the grounds of alleged human rights violations and deliberate misgovernment. 

 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 Commonwealthis 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:
    • 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.
    • The growing importance of small states for India’s foreign policy. A high proportion of Commonwealth members, about 60 per cent, are small states.
    • Commonwealth-wide presence of Indian diaspora. 
    • China is not and will never be a member of the Commonwealth. 

Benefits of membership

  • Commonwealth member countries benefit from being part of a mutually supportive community of independent and sovereign states, aided by more than 80 Commonwealth organisations.
  • The Commonwealth Secretariat, established in 1965, supports Commonwealth member countries to achieve development, democracy and peace.
  • It helps to strengthen governance, build inclusive institutions and promote justice and human rights.
  • It deploys experts and observers who offer impartial advice and solutions to national problems.
  • At Commonwealth summits, government leaders are brought together to amplify their voices and achieve collective action on global challenges.
  • Its work supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
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