Role of Sovereignty in International Relations

Sovereignty enjoys a lot of power in International Relations (IR). Sovereignty is the top most important element in situating strong ties with other countries. IR is not complete without Sovereignty. That’s why in every CSS examination questions about Sovereignty must come. It is an important topic under IR and the most relevant to study. Here I am going to discuss the Role of Sovereignty in International Relations briefly.

Sovereignty in International Relations

Sovereignty is the supreme authority of the state and enjoys unlimited power within its territory and can do whatever it likes to do within its geographical limits. States are independent, autonomous and answerable to none. All states are equal in status, though not in power.

Sovereignty also implies that states should not interfere in the internal affairs of other states. Although the states tend to exert pressure on each other in trade matters, alliances and war they must not meddle with each other’s matters, which fall exclusively within a state’s internet affairs. It is not for any country to endorse or oppose a candidate for the presidential election of another state.

In the absence of a central authority i.e., “World Police”, it becomes impossible to punish those states who violate an agreement and make the enforcement of international agreements difficult.

In 1990, North Korea refused to allow other states to inspect its nuclear facilities which was a clear violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The international community applied all tactics to persuade North Korea to desist from producing nuclear material but North Korea paid no heed to international appeals/threats and instead withdrew from NPT in 2002 and produced half a dozen nuclear bombs.

Following the suit in 2006-2007, Iran arrogantly brushed aside world concerns and went ahead with its program to enrich uranium. These are the problems in the sovereign international system.

The role of Sovereignty in International Relations can be assessed in that most states find it too difficult to avoid interference in their internal affairs by others as internal affairs, such as human rights violations or self-determination stir the international community.

Election monitors have to watch internal elections to detect rigging or fraud by the local authorities, while international organizations have to keep a watch on ethnic clashes if there is a fear of genocide.

The modern state system is territory based. It is the basic principle of IR to show respect for other states’ territorial integrity.

Some of the borders today, were demarcated as a result of wars in which the victorious nations occupied the territory of the vanquished state, and some borders have been determined by the third party or colonial rulers.

Every state has its diplomatic missions to manage its interactions. For this purpose, the states establish their embassies which are considered territories of the home state.

The country where the embassy is set up has no control over the premises of the embassy. If an embassy gives asylum to any wanted person by another state or home country, that person cannot be arrested from the embassy which would mount to the violation of the territorial integrity of the state to which the embassy belongs.

Diplomatic requirements acknowledge the rights of the states to spy on each other. It is a state’s own responsibility to stop other states from spying on them. During the post-Cold War era, spying continued even between friendly states.

The ambiguity of IR rules and regulations often creates security problems, a situation in which state actions are taken to ward off security threats, such as deploying more military forces, which may threaten the security of other states. The response of those other states who deploy more forces, in turn, threatens the first state.

Thus, a dilemma of security emerges which is the major cause of the arms race for which states waste large sums of money on weapons that ultimately do not provide security.

The security dilemma is a negative consequence of anarchy in the international system. If a world government could punish aggressors who arm themselves, there would be no need for the states to guard against this possibility.

Yet the self-help system requires that they prepare for the worst. Realists tend to see this dilemma as unsolvable whereas liberals believe it can be solved through the development of norms and institutions.

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