Old order changeth: India's Bhandari re-elected to ICJ

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Justice Dalveer Bhandari, who returns to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a second term after a hard-fought battle with the United Kingdom, said on Tuesday his re-election was a victory for India and all Indians.

". Judge Bhandari received the unanimous support of the UNSC and an absolute majority in the UN General Assembly for his re-election to the ICJ", the spokesperson said.

The UK media criticized the move to withdraw the candidate, saying that it bowed to worldwide pressure. Greenwood had served one nine-year term at the ICJ based in The Hague and was seeking to serve a second.

It will be the first time since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was established in 1945 that there will be no British judge. The peculiar voting system, admittedly a hang-over of the Cold War era global power structures, the UN Security Council and the General Assembly wield nearly equal weightage. In the previous 11 rounds, Bhandari secured almost two-thirds of the General Assembly votes every time, while in the Security Council, Greenwood consistently received nine votes as against Bhandari's five.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday congratulated Bhandari saying: "His re-election is a proud moment for us". Besides a permanent member going unrepresented, four Asian countries will be represented on the ICJ bench instead of the usual three.

After former Navy official Kulbhushan Jadhav's case, now on death row in Pakistan, reached the ICJ, there was an understanding that having an Indian nominee in the ICJ was a priority.

In the run up to the vote, in a carefully crafted strategy involving Modi, Swaraj, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and the India's representative at the UN Syed Akbaruddin, India sought to enlist the support of other countries raising the issue of democratic process.

The British Ambassador's statement withdrawing Justice Greenwood from the race was gracious- clearly aimed at underscoring that the bilateral India-UK relationship was worth more than this fight.


An official also pointed out that Judge Bhandari's tenure in the ICJ is significant as it coincided with the changing nature of the court itself as it reaffirmed arrival of the new global players like India. While Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj made over 60 phone calls to various world capitals, her deputies M J Akbar and V K Singh utilised every opportunity to present Bhandari's case, persons familiar with the issue told ET.

Indian officials maintained that voting in the General Assembly which overwhelmingly favoured Bhandari was reflective of the new global order.

Britain's withdrawal from the election to the prestigious world court would mean that there will not be a British judge on the UN's most powerful court for the first time in its history.


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