Intro : “We frankly recognise that we have gained very little by continuing to function within the Commonwealth. …on every crucial occasion the Commonwealth countries have failed to stand by Bharat where Bharat’s stand has been right and just.” – Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee,
in his Presidential Speech, First National Convention of BJS, 1951
Bharat has rightly decided to boycott the annual conference of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) to be held from September 30 to October 8 in Islamabad. Bharat has done that in protest against Pakistan not inviting the Speaker of Jammu & Kashmir Assembly. Although J&K Branch of CPA fulfils all conditions of its membership, Pakistan refused to invite the speaker of the J&K Assembly on the ground that it would compromise its position on the Kashmir issue. Refusing to recognise J&K Government as a legitimately elected one, Pakistan further said it is Bharat’s choice whether to attend the conference or not. The question is not limited to conference but the very rationale to be part of this organisation symbolising the colonial baggage.
It was Lord Rosebury who later became the British Prime Minister and called the Empire a ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ whilst visiting Australia. Though it is supposed to be a political Association with membership based on free and equal voluntary cooperation, its roots go back to the British Empire. In other words the Association is meant for cherishing the colonial heritage which many intellectuals rationalised in the post-independent period. Bharat with its growing stature should think of continuing with this colonial bondage.
The Commonwealth of Nations website depicts the Imperial perceptions about Bharatiya history. According to it, it was occupied by Indo-Europeans (Aryans) much before the arrival of British. Without making any significant references to ancient Bharatiya achievements, it talks about the Dravidian tribes and stratified society in the Vedic period. The Association, which carries such flawed understanding about a sovereign member country is not worth associating with.
It is not only about the ancient history. The illegal occupation of some territories in J&K is ‘abortive accession of Kashmir’ for the association while accession of Hyderabad is ‘Indian invasion on Hyderabad’. Since Independence, on any just and right issues, as precisely stated by Dr SP Mookerjee, Commonwealth Countries have failed to stand by Bharat. The human rights initiative of the Association often talks about violations in Bharatiya side of Jammu & Kashmir which is fairly governed by democratic norms without talking much about the state of affairs in Pakistan occupied Jammu & Kashmir. Whether on socio-cultural parameters or on indicators of economic development, the Association could not provide any substantive support to the member countries.
More importantly, it was a Nehruvian idea to be member of colonising Association even after the Independence, which was opposed by not only the then Bharatiya Jan Sangh but also by Communist and Socialist parties. In the last 65 years, the Commonwealth Association has neither helped us in securing national interests nor helped in improving international position. As Pakistan’s adamant stand on invitation to the Speaker of J&K Assembly and mute spectatorship of other members have again jeopardised Bharat’s position on J&K, Bharat should put a death knell to the membership of Association reminding us of our colonial past. Instead of that, the same energy should be utilised to strengthen institutions in the Indian Ocean Region and Southeast Asia.