36

53 countries, all of them former British colonies except for two, are in the Commonwealth.

Why are countries such as India, which had a major protest movement to gain independence from Imperialist Britain, still in the Commonwealth? What is the benefit of staying in this organization?

This is much broader than the question it was flagged as a duplicate of.

  • 2
    "all former British colonies except for two" is ambiguous: is the intended meaning that there are only two former British colonies which are not members, or that only two members are not former British colonies? Either way, I think it's probably wrong: there's an easy list of 13 former colonies whose successor state isn't in the Commonwealth, not to mention Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Aden, ... And members which were never British colonies include Mozambique, Rwanda, and, of course, the UK itself. – Peter Taylor Jul 25 at 18:47
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    In the case of India, it's largely because the government wanted to maintain positive relations with Britain after independence. – test monkey banana Jul 26 at 16:33
  • Possible duplicate of Why should/shouldn't India leave the commonwealth? – James K Jul 26 at 20:11
  • @closevoters this is a lot broader than that; India was just the example I used of a strange-seeming case. – Stormblessed Jul 26 at 20:32
49

One of the perks of membership in the Commonwealth is that new heads of government get to meet the monarch of the United Kingdom (Queen Elizabeth II, as of 2019).

Membership in the Commonwealth provides a very weak guarantee against coups d'etat. If your military unlawfully forces your government out of power, you can appeal to the last remnants of British overlordship. If your appeal is successful, the new government will be forced to either resign or have its membership in the Commonwealth suspended.

Membership in the Commonwealth advertises to potential investors that:

  • This is a country where English speakers are at least somewhat welcome.
  • This is a country that respects English legal traditions.
  • This country's claimed level of sovereignty is recognized by 52 other countries.
  • This country is less inclined to have coups d'etat than certain other, unnamed, countries.
  • 9
    Another minor (or not) perk : invitation to the Commonwealth Games. – Brian Drummond Jul 26 at 14:45
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    @Blueriver because she is not immortal. – smithkm Jul 26 at 17:31
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    @Jasper : indeed, when my wife first came from the US, she watched the games with a puzzled expression and asked "where are the American athletes?" I explained that the US had opted out ... in 1776! – Brian Drummond Jul 26 at 17:54
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    @JoL I take it to mean that there is a period to time including 2019 for which it is true without implying anthing about how far in either direction that period extends. Might be interesting to ask on english.stackexchange.com – smithkm Jul 26 at 18:49
  • 5
    Is Infogalactic a good source in general? The Infogalactic page on "African American" says "It is alleged that African Americans have undergone dysgenic effects in the past century, due to reduced selection pressures (though the increased number of black children surviving to adulthood is praised by anti-racist activists), and due to birth control being preferentially used by more intelligent individuals". That seems consistent with the description Wikipedia has of the site. – JoL Jul 27 at 0:10
32

Short version: because countries, like people, see value in belonging to clubs whose members share similar values and goals.

Long version:

The Commonwealth of Nations is a club of countries which are:

united by English language, history, culture and their shared values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Also:

No one government in the Commonwealth exercises power over the others, as is the case in a political union. Rather, the Commonwealth is an international organisation in which countries with diverse social, political, and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status, and cooperate within a framework of common values and goals

Note in particular that:

As membership is purely voluntary, member governments can choose at any time to leave the Commonwealth.

In other words, it is a club where countries which have certain things in common can get together and discuss matters of concern.

When a country breaches the principles of the club, it is free to leave or face suspension. Though this can result in political pressure for change, the Commonwealth has no direct means of enforcing its rules.

To address points raised in the question:

53 countries, all [of which are] former British colonies except for two, are in the Commonwealth.

(Rwanda and Mozambique are the only ones which were never British colonies or similar.)

Why are countries such as India, which had a major protest movement to gain independence from Imperialist Britain, still in the Commonwealth?

India has been an independent republic since 1950. As for why India in particular is still a member of the Commonwealth, I was unable to find a definitive answer. Most articles or discussions simply cover the advantages for any member; for example, this Slate article goes over the purpose of the Commonwealth, but sums it up with, "It’s got great perks". See also this Quora question.

The closest to an answer that I was able to find was this question from elsewhere on this site.


In addition to those mentioned above, the aforementioned perks include:

  • The Commonwealth provides assistants and consultants to member governments that want them, to help with better governance and economic growth.
  • Commonwealth citizens can vote in the UK and in some other Commonwealth countries.
  • Commonwealth citizens can get assistance from the UK's embassy if there isn't an embassy available for their own country.
  • Participating in (and occasionally hosting) the Commonwealth games.
  • 5
    This doesn't actually answer the question about Indian motives. Would be good to see more detail in this regard. – inappropriateCode Jul 25 at 9:48
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    @inappropriateCode: Yeah; pretty much every source I looked at focussed on the benefits to all members, rather than to India specifically (including every single answer to the linked Quora question). So it may be that India's motives are the same as other long-term members, namely that being a member suits them better than not being a member. However, if anyone can find a definitive statement from, say, the Indian government, that would obviously be useful. – Steve Melnikoff Jul 25 at 9:56
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    @inappropriateCode the question does not specifically ask about India's motives. It merely offers India as an example of a country that achieved independence after a serious political struggle. – phoog Jul 25 at 11:33
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    @phoog Considering that the independence movement is mentioned explicitly, one would expect an answer to touch on a nation like India with such a tradition, to try and explain how commonwealth membership balances with nationalist sentiment. India's motives are thus an important point, unless another equivalent case can be used. If nothing like this is mentioned an answer will be a little lacking. – inappropriateCode Jul 25 at 11:46
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    good answer, could be improved by at least summing up the most important of those "great perks" hinted at in the last paragraph. – Tom Jul 25 at 13:48
6

Simple answer..

Co-operation and communication between countries is always the better alternative.

Alternative to what? To anything else!

If you haven't got a shared table over which to discuss, whether it's the Commonwealth, EU, NATO, UN, WTO or even smaller organisations (e.g. CTBTO, FIFA, etc..), then you can't benefit from tangibles – from trade deals and shared resources to common rules of conduct and all the way to student exchange programmes or sports meetings – or even intangibles – promotion of co-operation, value sharing, etc.. – with that particular country...unless you resort to divisive, potentially non-peaceful methods (such as occupation or embargo).

And, naturally, it follows that the more tables you share with a country, the more options you have for benefiting from that partnership peacefully through multilateral deals.

  • This. (As much as I'd like to tell the Stinking Mass of Corruption that is the UN to go fsck itself and move to Libya, a place for everyone to talk and spy on each other is a Good Thing, and it's much better to be on your own soil so you can spy easier.) – RonJohn Jul 29 at 20:06

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