As the world remains riveted by an epic battle between India and the UK for the post of a judge at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the government is going all out to thwart a bid by the UK to stall voting at the UN General Assembly where India’s candidate Dalveer Bhandari enjoys support of more than 120 countries.
As first reported by TOI on Sunday, the UK is instead looking to invoke a mechanism of GA and Security Council Joint Conference, which has never been used in the history of ICJ, to choose the judge and, in the process, invalidate popular support for Bhandari. The UK’s candidate Christopher Greenwood holds on to a slender lead in the 15-member Council and, under the present rules, this is enough to offset the nearly two-thirds support for Bhandari in the GA.
For India, the election has now reached a tipping point and, as India’s permanent representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said on Friday, the election was no longer about an individual. “It is now about whether the outcome of the election of the World Court… that is what it is, the ICJ is the World Court… reflects the sentiments of ‘we the peoples of the world’? Does it reflect the democratic spirit of our times? The only gauge of that is the General Assembly of the United Nations,” he had said.
The UK, which fears that more voting in the GA will only see Bhandari’s lead increase, needs nine votes from the Security Council for its proposal to stall the process of voting for the ICJ judge. In the Council, Greenwood has the votes of nine nations but it remains to be seen if the same nine support what India sees as a clearly undemocratic move by the UK.
As Indian officials pointed out, a joint conference, which comprises three members each from the GA and the Council, has never been used in the entire history of seven decades of the ICJ to select a judge. “The only time it was used was prior to the establishment of the United Nations in 1921, when deputy judges for the Permanent Court of International Justice were selected,” said an official.
Agency reports from New York quoted official sources on Sunday that UK was playing “dirty politics” to deny Bhandari victory. In all past cases of deadlock, it has always been the candidate with majority in the GA that has gone on to be elected judge at the ICJ.