To be elected to the ICJ, a candidate must receive majority endorsement in both the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the United Nations Security Council.
The election of a judge to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), something that has passed on away from the limelight, has suddenly become the touchstone of the evolving world order. The fight between India’s Dalveer Bhandari and the UK’s Christopher Greenwood is now the litmus test of both old loyalties and whether world powers just pay lip-service to inclusion. To be elected to the ICJ, a candidate must receive majority endorsement in both the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the United Nations Security Council. UNGA is where the poor and developing member-countries are assured of getting at least a hearing. Whereas, while some developing and under-developed countries may become temporary members of the UNSC, it is the Permanent Five (P5)—the US, the UK, Russia, France and China—that hold sway, thanks to their veto power. So far, Bhandari has beaten Greenwood in the UNGA, but lost to him in the UNSC as the UK has made it an issue of prestige. The stakes are high for it due to its diminished world role, and Brexit will likely leave it further bruised.
The UK, meanwhile, is trying to force a joint conference of the two bodies. This will mean countries can no longer vote anonymously, a consideration that would weigh on many a country’s mind that depends largely on trade concessions and grants from the world-powers. At the same time, it will be the Veritaserum that India would like to see administered to those who have shook its hand. For instance, would Japan go against the US, its strongest ally against China in the Pacific? What about some of India’s neighbours who want all sorts of ties with it, but know that China, generous donor/investor and emerging world giant, will most probably vote, and expects allies to vote, for the UK candidate. The P5 wouldn’t want one of theirs going down to an upstart like India. At the same time, fighting for the status quo will challenge all their talk on making world bodies more inclusive. India may have its own dilemma, too—it has been advised to stand with the world powers rather than the fry. But, whichever way the fight goes now, India is going to come off looking better and stronger than before.