Bhandari re-elected to world court for 9 year term.
New Delhi/New York: In a big diplomatic win for India and the Modi government, Justice Dalveer Bhandari was on Tuesday re-elected to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with all but 10 UN member nations backing him, after Britain — a member of the P-5 — was forced to withdraw its candidate amidst high drama in the hard-fought race to the world court.
The victory heralds “winds of change” at the UN and the end of an era of unbridled dominance of the P-5 countries. This is the first time in 70 years, since the UN court’s inception in 1946, that a permanent member of the Security Council has lost a seat in the ICJ to a non-permanent member.
Justice Bhandari received 183 of the 193 votes in the General Assembly and secured all 15 votes in the Security Council in the 12th round of voting at the UN headquarters in New York.
Justice Bhandari, 70, was declared re-elected for a fresh nine-year term at the ICJ after Britain withdrew its candidate, Sir Christopher Greenwood, from the race about an hour before the scheduled voting. A jubilant Indian government said “the extraordinary support from the UN membership is reflective of the respect for strong constitutional integrity of the Indian polity and the independence of the judiciary in India”. With Justice Bhandari’s election, Britain will not have a judge on the world court’s 15-member panel for the first time.
The election outcome came after 11 rounds of voting which were deadlocked because a victorious candidate has to get majority vote both in the UN General Assembly and the Security Council. In the 11 rounds of voting, India had an overwhelming majority in the UNGA (nearly two-thirds in the 11th round) while Britain prevailed in the UNSC because the P-5 countries tend to stick together.
Sources indicated that the tide turned after two of the P-5 members told Britain that it would not be wise to terminate further rounds of voting and go for a consultation mechanism which required open voting. Once, cracks emerged in the P-5, Britain threw in the towel after its efforts to try every trick in the book to derail the Indian campaign failed. India also refused to budge under pressure and insisted that the democratic process be completed, sources said.
The Indian government went all out to back Justice Bhandari, a former Supreme Court judge, in his re-election bid.
In May this year, after the ICJ barred Pakistan from executing former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav till the court pronounces its final decision, Justice Bhandari was quoted by an Indian daily as saying, “I am delighted that the International Court rose to the occasion and did what it could in such short notice. We have saved a person from the gallows. This will prove to be a very important case for the jurisprudence of human rights. Now the larger issues which have been raised by the dispute will be taken up by the court.” Hailing the victory on Tuesday, PM Modi tweeted, “Congratulations to EAM @SushmaSwaraj and her entire team at MEA & diplomatic missions for their untiring efforts that have led to India’s re-election to ICJ. Our deep gratitude to all the members of UNGA as well as UNSC for their support and trust in India. I congratulate Justice Dalveer Bhandari on being re-elected to the International Court of Justice. His re-election is a proud moment for us.”
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj exulted, “Vande Matram — India wins election to the International Court of Justice. JaiHind. Congratulations to Justice Dalveer Bhandari on his re-election as a Judge of the ICJ. Huge efforts by Team — MEA. Syed Akbaruddin @AkbaruddinIndia our permanent representative in UN deserves a special mention.” Mr Akbaruddin himself tweeted, “A vote that brings cheer to a billion.”
Ms Swaraj is understood to have made as many as 60 calls in the past four days to her counterparts in numerous countries across the globe. Sources said the efforts were made at three levels — in New Delhi, where foreign missions were contacted by the MEA; in various foreign capitals by Indian missions; and the third and most crucial, by India’s permanent mission at the UN. According to reports from the UN, the British move to block voting in the Security Council and go for the joint consultation mechanism, which was last used some 96 years ago, fell flat because many of the UNSC members, including some permanent members who were supporting Britain in the secret ballot, backed off from voting in favour of the UK’s move as this required open voting.
According to informed sources, three hours before the voting, General Assembly president Miroslav Lajcak and Italian ambassador Sebastiano Cardi in his capacity as Security Council president for the month of November convened a consultative meeting with the Permanent Representative of the UK to the UN, Matthew Rycroft and Mr Akbaruddin.
In Washington, US President Donald Trump had a meeting with secretary of state Rex Tillerson and his Indian-origin ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. It is learnt that many of Britain’s supporters at this point clearly told them that they would vote for Sir Christopher only in a secret ballot but could not be seen voting in open against India and that too at a time when two-thirds of the world community was backing New Delhi. That’s probably when Britain decided that the game was up.
In a dramatic move, Mr Rycroft wrote identical letters to the presidents of the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council before the two chambers were scheduled to meet at 3 pm (local time) for the 12th round of voting. Mr Rycroft said in his letter the current deadlock is unlikely to be broken by further rounds of voting and the UK therefore has decided to withdraw Sir Christopher’s nomination.
“In taking this step, we have borne in mind the close relationship that the United Kingdom and India have always enjoyed and we will continue to enjoy...,” Mr Rycroft said. Thereafter Mr Lajcak and Mr Cardi announced that the rest of the election process be completed by having the name of just Justice Bhandari on the ballot.
Soon, Justice Bhandari was declared elected. In its statement from New Delhi, MEA appreciated the “extraordinary support from the UN membership,” and said it is “reflective of the respect for strong constitutional integrity of the Indian polity and the independence of the judiciary in India.”
The MEA added, “Government of India has been supporting the campaign of Judge Bhandari through diplomatic efforts at different fora. The UK decided to withdraw its candidate after a closely fought electoral process. We appreciate the UK decision.