For decades now, the concept of sovereignty has become the subject of major discussion within the international law and international relations faculty. Rather than debating about the timeless universal meaning of sovereignty, the contemporary scholars have focused on the new meanings of sovereignty across various political and historical contexts. Much of the subsequent historical exploration has been undertaken as a result of an earlier linguistic reorientation within the social and legal sciences. Sovereignty refers to the quality of having independent authority in a specific geographic area or territory. It can be found in power to rule and make laws that depends on the political fact for which there is no pure legal definition. In theoretical practice, sovereignty, in a way, makes it imperative for the entity exercising it to possess a moral value.
Earlier, the idea that a state can be sovereign was always connected to the ability to provide best to the citizens. So, if a state could not act best to the expectations of the citizens, the state could not be considered as a sovereign state. The concept of sovereignty has been a matter of discussion throughout the history. It was discussed in the times of Romans and it is still being discussed today. The definition, concept and application of it have been changed a lot during the period or age when humans achieved enlightenment. Through this age, sovereignty gained moral and legal force as western description and power of state. Social contract was suggested as a mechanism to establish sovereignty and by 1800 it has been widely accepted, especially in USA and France and also in UK to a lesser context. The present concept of state sovereignty consists of four aspects of territory, authority, population and recognition. According to Stephen D. Krasner, sovereignty can be understood in different ways and they are domestic sovereignty, interdependence sovereignty, international legal sovereignty and Westphalian sovereignty. In domestic sovereignty, actual control over state is exercised by an authority organized within the state. Interdependence sovereignty refers to the actual control of movement is exercised by borders of the states by assuming that the borders exist. International legal sovereignty refers to formal recognition by sovereign states. The Westphalian refers to the dearth of control on the state than domestic control. The authorities can be considered as the non-domestic church or a non-domestic political organization. Often, it can be seen that the four aspects appear together but not necessarily and they are not affected by one another. It can also be found that a state is Westphalian not sovereign from one aspect but at the same time it can also be found that the state is sovereign from any of the other aspects. According to Immanuel Wallerstein, another significant feature of sovereignty is that the claim of it should be recognized by others if it has any meaning. He also states that sovereignty is more than just another matter of legal permissibility that calls for mutual recognition. It basically is a hypothetical trade where the two conflicting sides exchange the recognitions as a part of their strategy respecting de facto realities of power.
Sovereignty emerged as a concept in late of 16th century when the ghastly affair of the civil war had given birth to the hankering for stricter authorities and when the monarchs started to take the power into their own hands as expenses of nobility and the modern nation state also emerged during this period. Jean Bodin, presented the theory of sovereignty which states the importance of a strong central authority as absolute monarchy and his theory was partly developed as a directly result of the religious wars waged in France. Bodin argued in his Les Six Livres de la Republique or “Six Books of the Republic” that the sovereignty should be there in any state as an inherent nature (Talmon, 1998). He also stated that sovereignty has to be absolute and perpetual. Bodin added that the sovereignty should not be hedged with any type of conditions or obligations and it should have the power to legislate without the consent of the subject and it should not be bound by the laws of the predecessors as it is totally illogical and simultaneously discarded the idea of passing over of sovereignty from the people of the state to sovereign. Sovereignty is not considered as a thing above the natural law and divine law but it is just a positive law which laws are made by humans.
Sovereignty is considered as an important political aspect due to several factors. An important factor of sovereignty is the degree of absoluteness. Any sovereign power has absolute sovereignty when there is no law or constitution or custom to restrict it (Heywood, 2005). No area of law or policy is there to control it. There are some factors that might restrict the sovereignty such as international law, cooperation and respect of the populace, policies and actions taken by the neighboring states that can restrict the sovereignty.
Another key element of sovereignty is the exclusivity of the jurisdiction. The degree to which a sovereign entity makes the decisions might also be contradicted by another authority. The German sociologist Max Weber stated that sovereignty is the monopoly of the community on legitimate uses of force and if any group claims that the same right must be brought under the concept of sovereign, it is considered as illegitimate. International law, authorities reserved for subordinate entities or competing branches of government can represent the legal infringements on exclusivity of the sovereignty. The social constitutions such as corporations, religious bodies and the political parties can represent the de facto infringements of sovereignty.
Sovereignty has a right to control the exercise of a territory. Sovereignty is also concerned with the fact whether the control exists of not. Cooperation and respect of the public, means of security, control of resources and the ability to carry different functions of state measures the sovereignty (Osiander, 2004). When the control of sovereignty is taken care by police or military then it is considered as coercive sovereignty.
The sovereignty of any state is compared with the independence. The only difference between these two concepts is that the there can be transference of the legitimate rights to Sovereignty, but not of independence. A state can get de facto independence after acquiring sovereignty, for example in case of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. A state might also lose the independence temporarily if they retain the legal Sovereignty. The case of illegal incorporation between Baltic States of Soviet Union between 1940 and 1991 can be considered in this context.
It is a mistake to assume the paradox of sovereignty has been solved in the western democracies. Sovereignty is highly important in the world today and the battle of sovereignty is seen throughout the Western Europe and Great Britain. Especially during the election time in Britain, it had taken the scene in relation to the stretching of the EU (European Union). Nations hold the The various countries hold the right to constitute their own sets of laws, as per their own accounts and it remains unlikely the EU will gain the complete support to infringe on sovereignty. Another great example can be considered is the current conflict in Iraq. In this case, a particular nation is interfering into the domain of another’s sovereign rights and rights of determining courses of affairs. Without sovereignty, politics can be stated as just a bunch of men squabbling who had no real effect over anything. In modern times, governments of any country do not want their sovereignty being touched because if they lose any territory they lose the power and eventually they might be replaced by another government.
The term popular sovereignty was coined against the thesis of national sovereignty. The French Constitution of 1793 was a piece of legislation that established that “sovereignty resides in the people.” In The Social Contract, Jean Jacques Rousseau attributed to each member of the State an equal share of what he calls the “sovereign authority” and proposed a thesis on sovereignty based on the general will. Jean Jacques Rousseau stated that the sovereign is a person who emerges from the social compact, and as a body enacts the general will expressed in the law. According to the various theses held to date, popular sovereignty implies “that the legal and factual residence of command of office is set and holds the universality of citizens”, and particularly in the united democratic scenario. So the universal suffrage becomes a fundamental right and the condition is the same for all citizens regardless of any other consideration, except for the limitations of age or trial.
Internal sovereignty is an important aspect of sovereignty. It focuses on the equations between a sovereign ruler and the respective subjects (Talmon, 2012). The legitimacy is an important point of focus. According to Malksoo (2008), the right based on which a person or governing body exercises power and authority is the basis of legitimacy. Legitimacy is often claimed with respect to royal rights of kings or some form of an agreement in a society. Sovereignty means the supreme power and represents authority over an area, a state, etc. This authority is completely independent and is not controlled by any external powers. Internal Sovereignty represents the internal factors within an area or state and focus on the position and placement of power within this. An internally sovereign state is a state where the people have voted and chosen a government. Internal sovereignty monitors and controls the operations of the state. The internal sovereignty needs to be strong in order to keep a state in an orderly and peaceful condition. If this falls weak, internal organizations rise up with the intention of taking over the authority. As per Heywood (2009), the present authority is undermined and ignored by rebel groups and peace is disturbed.
Newton (2008) stated that, a strong internal authority ensures that the agreements, laws, etc. are in action and that the laws are not violated. This also enables enforcement of laws, sanctions, etc. wherever and whenever necessary. The capability of the leader to stop these kinds of uprisings and unlawful activities is an integral part of deciding on internal sovereignty. The non existence of internal sovereignty can lead to war in two manners. In the first scenario, the importance of the social agreement is ignored and the laws are violated in such a way, that the rules need to spend a lot of money, or face huge financial losses. In the second scenario, huge amounts of money are required to implement peace, in turn, making war seem like a better financial decision than peace. According to Nolan (2011), in an efficient internal sovereignty, the leader needs to have the ability to make sure that the different integral parts of the state, like the army, the police, etc., will respect the social agreement. If a strong internal sovereignty is present in a nation or state, the leaders can bargain with opposing parties to establish peace. Ideally, a decentralized or unbiased leader is the most effective in this scenario, as, both the demands and requirements of the leading party and the opposition need to be met in a bargain. According to Thomson (2008), the internal affairs and operations of a state depend on how sovereign the state is, but, deciding who should have the power in a sovereign state, is still a matter of huge debate.
This debate about authority in a sovereign place is known as the traditional doctrine of public sovereignty. According to Malanczuk (2010), the argument is generally among an internal sovereign or a public representative of sovereignty. An internal sovereign means a politics oriented group, party or individual, which/who has the complete authority and power in a state. In this case, the decisions made by this body or individual needs to be compulsorily followed by the people of the state. Louis XIV of France was an individual ruler who practiced internal sovereignty. He made the claim that he was the state. On the other hand, Public Sovereignty means that the authority or power belongs to the people of the state and the state is run on public will. The holder of authority is a representative of the people chosen through elections. In this case, the aim is well being of the people. The concept of public sovereignty is an integral aspect of the modern theory of democracy (Philpott, 2009).
Another type of sovereignty is external sovereignty. McPherson (2009) stated that external sovereignty focuses on international relationships or the equations between one state and the other external states. The United Kingdom is an example of this. It has specific conditions under which different states acknowledge a sovereign power’s authority in a state. As per the Stroud Judicial Dictionary, Sovereignty is a form of government which has independent authority in a nation and is not under the control of any foreign power. External sovereignty involves some aspects of international law, like, what is the right situation and timing for a nation to interfere or intervene in matters of another nation. As per international law, sovereignty is a government which has complete authority over the operations in a geographical territory or state. There no technique of identifying or recognizing a sovereignty, but, in general, it involves disputes. External governments assess a state or territory with the help of a huge variety of data and political issues in order to decide about recognizing and accepting a sovereign power. For example, for a sovereign power to be a member of the United Nations, the power needs approval of the General Assembly. As per Benton (2010), the General Assembly decides in this matter with the help of the recommendations provided by the Security Council.
Thus, it can be concluded that Sovereignty is important because it is the right of the people to elect their government, its laws, etc. This is a representation of a territory and it implies that the territory would be respected. Accordingly, sovereignty is a power, rather than a right. The word sovereignty has also played an important role in political theory and doctrine of international law. Sometimes the content of this word has been obscured and distorted, so it can be understood in various ways or support different interpretations and be, therefore, a matter of doubt, leading to uncertainty and confusion. The main problem is that there are as many definitions of the term as there are authors; there is no agreement on the concept in international law. In absolute monarchies, the sovereignty of the State is identified to the king. Hence, the monarch is called sovereign. The concept of liberalism subverted the concept of sovereignty and conceived two modalities of this: the first one was revolutionary, in which the people, considered as a group of individuals, exercised universal suffrage (popular sovereignty). Another modality was conservative, and involved voting (national sovereignty).Sovereignty means the exclusive right to exercise the authority policy (legislative, judicial and / or executive) in a geographical area or among a group of people. The sovereign is an identified person who can be the representative of the state, or the king.