With nearly two-thirds of members of the UN General Assembly supporting India's Dalveer Bhandari in the election to the International Court of Justice, India has strongly quelled rumours about withdrawing from the race.
With nearly two-thirds of members of the UN General Assembly supporting India’s Dalveer Bhandari in the election to the International Court of Justice, India has strongly quelled rumours about withdrawing from the race. India has also ruled out any compromise asserting that the candidate who enjoys overwhelming support of the General Assembly members can be the only legitimate candidate to go through. In the straight contest between the remaining two individual judges – Bhandari and Britain’s Christopher Greenwood – Justice Bhandari, 70, has consistently received significantly more votes, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Syed Akbaruddin said.
The gap between him and the other candidate has been growing and in the last round was 53 votes among the general membership, Akbaruddin told representatives from more than 160 countries at a reception hosted for Bhandari at the UN headquarters here. “What happens in such circumstances? The precedent is clear. As is expected in the 21st century, the candidate who enjoys the overwhelming support of the General Assembly membership has always been selected as the only legitimate candidate to go through. As recently as three years ago, we had exactly the similar parallel…the pattern is exact.
“In fact, if someone looks at the voting, it shows the will of the General Assembly rightly prevail in the ICJ election,” he added. Observing that the General Assembly reflects the spirit of “we the people”, the top Indian diplomat said all the contests in the past have ended by taking cognisance of the sentiment and spirit that the universal membership of the General Assembly has reflected. “We see the election today at a tipping point. It is now no longer about an individual.. It is also no longer about the representative or a nominee of a country. It is now about whether the outcome of the election to the world court – the International Court of Justice – reflects the sentiment of the peoples of the world. The only gauge of that is the General Assembly of the United Nations,” he asserted.
“We have a choice of either acknowledging the spirit of our times and ending this process honourably or trying to stem the democratic drift of inclusivism. The choice we now have is about what shape do we want to give to the future direction of multilateralism, universalism or emphasis on opposition by a few,” he told the representatives.
Akbaruddin said “some impression is being sought to be created” that India and the UK are in talks and Judge Bhandari may withdraw, as he may not be allowed to win. “You can see that Judge Bhandari is here. We are here. We intend to stay here. The United Nations is our home. We will ensure that the will of the majority prevails. Times have changed,” he said.
Since the establishment of the UN, this election process “provides us with a clear opportunity” for all the general membership to contribute to make the difference, he said. “It’s an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime for an individual. We did not plan for it. We did not ask for it. We are mere agents in the process. Our collective choice will make the difference on Monday,” he said, with Bhandari standing by his side. Impression is also sought to be created that India has agreed to a joint conference mechanism to break the deadlock. “Let me tell you right now upfront that not one person has approached me with this proposal, certainly not the representative of the country whose candidate is being faced,” Akbaruddin said.
“Yes, we have talked. Sure, we are diplomats, what else do we do? We talked, but never once was such a proposal made,” he said. “If a proposal is made outside of us, I leave it to you what to think,” he said. “Everyone can see where the momentum lies. This is not the first such election where a decision has taken so long,” he said referring to ICJ elections in 2014 and 2011. “The joint mechanism has never been resorted to as perhaps it is too complicated to implement,” he said. He described this as a “toolkit” which has never been used in the history of the UN, and perhaps with valid reasons as it “opens a can of worms”. Akbaruddin asserted that the momentum lies with India.
“The situation is clear even at this stage. One candidate has failed to reach anywhere near the absolute majority mark in the General Assembly for numerous consecutive rounds – when he was in a group of six and when he is on a ballot with two names,” he said. This election is getting prolonged only because the clear support of 121 is being equated to the support of nine, he said referring to the last round of ICJ elections held at the UN General Assembly and Security Council early this week. “The election to the world court cannot be decided by three or nine. It has to be decided on the floor of the house,” he added. “This election is to the ‘world court’ which decides upon issues brought to it by member states, without recourse to other bodies,” he said, hoping that the results will reflect the sentiment that is prevailing in the universal membership.
In his remarks, the top Indian diplomat also ridiculed the logic being put forth by some countries that Britain as a permanent member of the UN Security Council needs to be present in the ICJ. “More than seven decades since the establishment of the United Nations, the election provides an opportunity for all of the general membership to contribute to making a difference. It is not an opportunity that we had planned for but is also not an opportunity we should let go of. Such occasions come rarely. Our collective choice can make a difference,” he said. “For a long period, not all of the P-5 were represented in the ICJ,” he said.
P-5 stands for the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Britain, China, Russia, and France.
Akbaruddin congratulated judges Antonio Augusto Cancado Trindade of Brazil, Ronny Abraham of France, Nawaf Salaam of Lebanon and Abdul Qawi Ahmed Yusuf of Somalia for their well- deserved election to the ICJ. Based in The Hague, the ICJ has a bench of 15 judges, five of whom are elected every three years for a nine-year term. Established in 1945, the role of the ICJ is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by states and to give advisory opinions on legal questions.