Commonwealth Nations

  • IASbaba
  • September 20, 2022
  • 0
International Relations
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Context: The death of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, the country’s longest serving ruler, who reigned for over 70 years, marks not only the end of an era for the British monarchy, but also a turning point for the 14 Commonwealth realms of which she was the Head of State.

What is the Commonwealth and what are its realms?

  • The Commonwealth of Nations is a group of 56 countries comprised mostly of former British colonies including India.
  • The Commonwealth consists of both republics and realms. The British monarch is the Head of State for the realms, whereas the republics are ruled by elected governments, except in the case of five countries — Brunei Darussalam, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malaysia, and Tonga — each a self-governed monarchy.
  • The realms are comprised of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

How is the Commonwealth viewed by its members?

  • Even if the situation is changing vis-à-vis ,the broader Commonwealth group, remains strong and fosters policy coordination among its members through its Heads of Government Meetings, even post-pandemic economic recovery.
  • This has not always been the case. During the Queen’s third and final visit to India in 1997, many expected an apology for the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre of 1919, carried out by the erstwhile colonial government, and ordered by General Reginald Dyer.
    • Yet that apology never came, and instead the Queen only referenced the killings during a banquet speech when she said, “It is no secret that there have been some difficult episodes in our past. Jallianwala Bagh is a distressing example.”
  • It was also in 1997 that the U.K. handed over control of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China, thereby losing after 156 years what was considered to be one of the most important colonies in Asia.

Which nations are moving towards ending formal ties to the British monarchy?

  • The debate in some of the Commonwealth realms, including for example Australia, has led to popular movements to reposition the country in question as a republic. In this regard it is likely that there will be a referendum on the question of severing official ties to the monarchy in the months ahead.
  • While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand has said that her country would support King Charles, she added that it would become a republic “in time”.
  • Similarly, Prime Minister Philip Davis of the Bahamas has said he intends to conduct a referendum to remove King Charles from the role of official Head of State, thereby moving the country, which gained independence in 1973, towards being a republic.
    • Governments in five other Caribbean nations — Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica and Saint Kitts and Nevis — have signalled their intention to act similarly.

Thus, it is not beyond imagination that following the death of Queen Elizabeth, the Commonwealth realms might fade into being a relic of the past, and nations that suffered a history of colonialism — along with its attendant violence and resource extraction — will move forward to establish themselves as republics.

Source:   The Hindu


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