Reviving the British Commonwealth — With India at the Centre

From John Elliott’s Blog: Riding the Elephant, July 5

Could India and Britain jointly revive the Commonwealth, not only to boost their own cooperation, but to form a significant international alliance of English-speaking democracies that span religious and ethnic boundaries? If they did this and brought the organization’s other 51 member countries into an active association, could the Commonwealth emerge as a new influence in a world that will be increasingly dominated by China and sternly Islamic nations?

These ideas, which contrast with earlier suggestions (usually negative) about what to do with the largely ceremonial and British-dominated Commonwealth, have been put forward by C. Raja Mohan, one of India’s leading strategic and foreign affairs analysts, in a book of essays by Indian and British writers.

Mohan has little time for the Commonwealth as it is now, saying it has been a “political bully that was incompetent at its best, impotent at its worst, and increasingly irrelevant on the economic front.” But he suggests that India should take over some of the leadership role from London because, as a rising power, it can influence the Commonwealth’s economic prospects, offering technical, economic and security aid to the smallest states.

“If Delhi and London don’t act together and decisively, they will soon find that China, whose commercial and strategic presence across different regions of the organization has grown, will turn the Commonwealth into an historical footnote,” he says. “I believe if and when India becomes a great power, its foreign policy might look a lot like that of the [British] Raj in terms of providing security to weaker states and preserving regional order,” he says. “A rising India must consider taking over the leadership of the Commonwealth at some point of time. At a time when it is competing with China around the world, it could work with English-speaking leaderships of Commonwealth countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.”


6 responses to “Reviving the British Commonwealth — With India at the Centre

  1. Michael Gundy

    Such co-operation has been going on for some time already although not necessarily just between the U.K and India. Herein Canada, we see strengthening ties to India. The Canada India Foundation is one such example as its purpose is to formally expedite this. See

    • Yes, but this concept, if it bears fruit, has the potential of changing the emphasis of Canada’s foreign policy from attachment to a declining United States to a growing India-centered Commonwealth.

  2. If that were possible it would a great and beneficent influence, but I am afraid the UK and India are just too different culturally.

    • Gandhi felt very much at home in England, and many people in England, except Churchill, were impressed by him.

    • After about a century of British rule, and numerous Indians coming to the UK affecting our politics, we really arnt that different anymore

  3. While it is a romantic notion to think of a “New Commonwealth”, what is already emerging is a new Anglo-Alliance with a “New” India an equal partner with UK and Canada. This exists within the Stability Board, G20 more broadly, and it may also emerge at the UN (eventually). This will benefit Canada, but the US, UK, India, (and South Africa) will remain commercial competitors for Canada as well as strategic allies.

    Mike Sky

    PS: Upwards of $2 billion in Canada’s trade with India is “mislabelled” as Canadian trade with the UK.