Millennium Post

Colonising the coloniser

India proved its mettle on the global front after Justice Dalveer Bhandari won his re-election to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by ousting his opponent, United Kingdom's Christopher Greenwood. The UK, a permanent member of the Security Council withdrew its candidate in the last minute after it lost out on votes in the UN General Assembly. The General Assembly voted in favour of Bhandari, 115-76. Though the UK voluntarily withdrew its candidate in the face of unmitigated roadblocks, the British media came out to say that this was a 'humiliating blow'. For 71-years, UK has had a representative on the ICJ board and this is for the first time that they have been left without a chair in the highest court of justice which deliberates on matters of jurisdiction submitted to it by different states and also provides advisory opinion on legal questions.

The ICJ is a most respected body which houses 15-judges who serve a term of nine years each. Though the UK had a majority of votes in the UN Security Council, where matters were tilted in Greenwood's favour at 9-5, they decided to turn tables around by voluntarily declaring the withdrawal of their candidate. The UN rules state that to be a clear winner one must secure majority votes in both the UNGA and UNSC. On realising that this difference was not to evaporate anytime soon, the UK had initially proposed for a 'joint conference' which, according to article 12(1) of the ICJ statute can be described as a meeting between six countries—three each from the UNGA and UNSC—where complete autonomy is provided to the countries to decide on the final candidate, who can also be someone not so forth officially nominated. This option, though present, was last used in 1921, and the UN doesn't clearly spell out on the process to choose the six countries that would make the deliberations. The UK thus, estimating the complications and striving to save its own face on the global front, withdrew Greenwood's nomination handing Bhandari a comfortable re-election to the ICJ.

This process wasn't as simple as it seems now in the written alphabet. It required a high level of efficient diplomatic correspondence by the Ministry of External Affairs with respective nations on the global front to secure for Bhandari a position that is deemed to be one of the most respectable. To beat the UK to this position was possibly India's biggest victory, given how the country had faced the wrath of British colonisation for nearly 200-years. India's stance that the UNGA was the "voice of the people" and the UNSC was the "voice of the elite" paid rich dividends as the voting finally tilted in India's favour. UK has been increasingly alienated on the global front, post-Brexit, and there is a clear shift of policymaking which is attempting to posit UK as an embracer, and not simply the white man's land. Debates of status-quo have been intensifying across the globe as more countries strive to become relevant other than the P-5 members.

The reverberations of this mood can be felt across the General Assembly which voted strongly in India's favour, identifying it as one of the nations that is soaring to relevance on the global front. For UK too this has implications beyond a harsh defeat. It not only emphasises the idea that the UK is becoming less relevant than it was a few decades ago, it also shows a shift in the policy of London which is sacrificing its sense of entitlement. The UN right now is emphasising on the need to zap out of this belief of entitlement which seeps through developed countries, particularly in Europe. The world is a global market and all nations stand a fair chance to become equals—this idea resonated strongly as Bhandari came out victorious beating his UK counterpart.

Though, as a judge Bhandari represents ideas of justice and not mechanical support to his country, his continued position as an ICJ judge would be useful for India as the board goes on to hear the case of Kulbushan Jadav, an Indian Navy officer who has been awarded death sentence by a Pakistan military court. Bhandari's victory soliciting his position in the ICJ can be credited to Sushma Swaraj who made over 60 phone calls to her foreign counterparts of different nations proposing for the qualitative re-election of Bhandari. She left no stone unturned in ensuring that India rightfully occupies its deserved place in the international body. This victory has reflected, after long, the aggression and vivacity with which India can project itself on the international map without sabotaging another's position. The proposals favouring Bhandari, all spoke of his virtues without diminishing Greenwood or UK's capacity. India has done well to come out of its shell and voraciously secure its place on the ICJ table.

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