THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN COMMONWEALTH
The birth of the modern Commonwealth, as we recognise it today, really began with the independence of India and Pakistan from Britain in 1947. In 1949, India’s desire to become a republic and to cut constitutional ties with the British monarchy while remaining within the Commonwealth, forced leaders to rethink the principles of Commonwealth membership. The London Declaration of the same year dropped the word ‘British’ from the association’s title. Removing the requirement that member countries have the British Monarch as their Head of State, the same Declaration recognised King George VI as the “symbol of their free association and as such Head of the Commonwealth”. India was thus welcomed as the first republican member in a modern, and voluntary, association.
So exceptional was the spirit of accommodation on all sides in reaching this agreement that the Indian Prime Minister, Jawarhalal Nehru, was moved to say at the time that the Commonwealth could bring “a touch of healing” to the management of contemporary world problems.
Committed to racial equality and national sovereignty, the Commonwealth became the natural association of choice for many new nations emerging out of decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s. Ghana achieved independence in 1957 and became the first majority-ruled African member. Jamaica was the first to claim independence in the Caribbean in 1962; and, in the same year, Samoa became the first among countries in the Pacific (excluding Australia and New Zealand). From this point on, the Commonwealth expanded rapidly.
IMPORTANT MILESTONES IN HISTORY
In 1965, an important milestone was reached when Commonwealth leaders established the Commonwealth Secretariat at Marlborough House in London. This was to be the association’s own independent civil service, headed by a Commonwealth Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is now elected by Heads for no more than two four-year terms... [continues]
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