What is Sovereignty ?

The Concept of Sovereignty

Sovereignty is a term that is used to refer to the independence and autonomy of modern nation states. Unlike earlier eras where countries were ruled by Kings in historic times and by colonial powers in the 18th and 19th centuries, sovereignty refers to the fact of absolute independence and autonomy that nation states have with respect to the decisions taken by them in matters concerning their citizenry.

Sovereignty means that nation states are free to decide for themselves about the kind of democracy that they want, the kind of rulers that they want, and their policies internally and externally. Often, the concept of sovereignty is invoked to delineate the distinction between taking decisions on their own by nation states and resisting external pressures to sway the decision-making process. In this respect, sovereign nations are expected to be autonomous and independent when they pursue policies that are in their interest and their people’s interest and not according to the dictates of a foreign power.

Globalization and Sovereignty

In recent years, the concept of sovereignty has been debated because globalization means that nation states submit themselves to international treaties and international agreements that are not always in their best interests. This imposes some amount of coercion on the nation states especially in the developing world and hence, globalization has to come to mean imperialism in another form. Since countries like India have had the taste of imperialism by the British, they are understandably reluctant to submit to the dictates of the World Bank, the IMF or the International Monetary Fund, and other international bodies. However, it is also the case that the options are limited as resisting these bodies and the WTO or the World Trade Organization means that the countries miss lucrative trade and export opportunities.

The Emergence of the Post Colonial Powers

However, the recent economic crisis that started in 2007 has proven that sovereignty of nations being subsumed by international bodies cuts both ways as the global economy is tightly interconnected and hence, cannot be regulated by nations in isolation. On the other hand, the assertiveness of the newly emerging economies like China and India means that there is still a place for nationalistic sovereignty instead of being completely dictated by the West.

Further, the fact that sovereignty means that colonial powers and foreign powers cannot intervene or interfere in the internal affairs of countries is also another indicator that the hard fought victories by the erstwhile colonial states are bearing fruit. This is also a sign of the emergence of postcolonial powers that have come into their own right thanks to a combination of factors some of which would be discussed in subsequent articles.

Final Thoughts

Finally, the point needs to be made that sovereignty for many countries has come at the expense of countless lives and sacrifices and hence, it is incumbent upon the successive generations to uphold the sovereign principles of freedom, equality, and choice and not to squander away the good work done by the freedom fighters.


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Political Science