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Why Britain lost to India in bid to elect judge to the ICJ

Countries such as France and Germany that were hitherto its partners at world forums are said to be less enthusiastic about supporting Britain after the inward-looking vote to leave the European Union.

world Updated: Nov 22, 2017 10:31 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
International Court of Justice,Dalveer Bhandari,Christopher Greenwood
India's permanent representative to the United Nations, Syed Akbaruddin, speaks during a reception in honour of Dalveer Bhandari (left) at the UN in New York on November 20, 2017. Bhandari won the votes in the UN General Assembly to make it to the International Court of Justice after the UK pulled out of the race. (PTI)

Buffeted by political and bureaucratic storms related to Brexit, the UK is increasingly seeing its status and influence on the global stage lessening by the day – Monday’s withdrawal of its candidate for the International Court of Justice is just one reflection of this.

Countries such as France and Germany that were hitherto itspartners at world forums are said to be less enthusiastic about supporting Britain after the inward-looking vote to leave the European Union, indicating that there could be more such reverses for London in future.

Britain’s Foreign Office was in touch with the Indian high commission over the past week on the ICJ election. Acting high commissioner Dinesh Patnaik was told that as “old friends”, whoever won, it would be fine, as both candidates reflected countries with similar legal systems.

Britain decided to withdraw its candidate, Christopher Greenwood, after it became clear that besides European partners such as Germany and France, the United States too had informed its mission at the UN that it faced a deadlock and loss of face due to growing support for the Indian candidate, Dalveer Bhandari.

The ICJ fiasco for London is inevitably linked in London to the headwinds caused by Brexit. Paris, Frankfurt and other European cities have been vigorously lobbying to invite financial and other companies to relocate there, offering a bouquet of incentives.

Harsh Pant, professor of international relations at King’s College, told Hindustan Times: “The UK is seeing its status getting diminished quite rapidly. Brexit has made matters worse of course, but even without Brexit this is a phase in global politics when new powers like India are rising and demanding their share in global decision-making.

“Britain withdrawing its candidate to the ICJis also a tribute to smart and aggressive diplomacy by India. New Delhi is now ready to play a larger global role and it is willing to step up to the plate should there be a need. This hunger was absent before but the Narendra Modi government has made it clear that it believes in fighting for what it believes India deserves.”

Bhandari’s election is seenas significant moment in the ICJ’s history.

Damian Gonzalez Salzburg of Sheffield University’s centre for international and European law told The Guardian: “It will be the first time in UN history where less than five judges from the most powerful regional group will sit at the ICJ.

“This may indicate the will of non-Western states to challenge Western privileges enshrined in customary rules for ICJ elections.”

Monday was a bad day for the Theresa May government for two more reasons: the European Medicines Agency (EMA) decided to relocate from London to Amsterdam, and the European Banking Authority (EBA) to Paris amid increasing talk in the financial district of a “Brexodus” of jobs.

The developments led to more criticism of talk by ministers leading Brexit that the UK will be more global after leaving the European Union, forging trade deals with India and other countries that it is unable to while remaining within the EU.

Former business secretary and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said Brexit secretary David Davis’s suggestion that London could keep EMA, EBA and other European agencies showed how little grasp the government had of the potential consequences of Brexit.

“This marks the beginning of the jobs Brexodus. Large private sector organisations are also considering moving to Europe and we can expect many to do so over next few years,” said Cable, who strongly opposed Brexit.

First Published: Nov 21, 2017 16:34 IST