The Continuing Commonwealth: Its Origins and Characteristics
The focus of this volume is on the contemporary Commonwealth — an institution that has evolved from an imperial past through a complete metamorphosis of values and practice. Yet the seeds of the present lie in that past. The imperial phase ended with the formal acknowledgement of the reality of the sovereign equality of the dominions. If there was to be unity it would be unity in diversity, and by consent, not by command. Moreover, the diversity increased as non-British peoples demanded independence but were prepared to acknowledge a modicum of unity. This unity lost most of its political content in terms of the capacity for concerted action, but not entirely so, despite the conflicts engendered during the process of decolonization. In part this was due to the continued evolution and flourishing of many non-governmental ties after independence. These ties often reflected shared interests, but they could also have a neo-colonial aspect. The relatively peaceful accession to independence of the Indian sub-continent obviated any need for a sharp discontinuity of such ties and their continued existence gave a degree of relevance to continued political ties. A Commonwealth based on transactions in functional and non-governmental dimensions existed and it made necessary a political Commonwealth which was no mere face-saving device or sentimental illusion. Prime Minister Nehru also pointed to a supportive role for the Commonwealth in the management of contemporary world problems. He felt that it brought a ‘touch of healing’ to a sick world.1
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