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NEW DELHI: India’s Dalveer Bhandari was on Tuesday re-elected to the International Court of Justice with more than two-thirds of the UN members backing him, forcing Britain to withdraw its candidate amidst high drama in the hard-fought race to the world court.
In what was described by India as one of its “biggest diplomatic victories” in the multilateral arena, Bhandari received 183 of the 193 votes in the General Assembly and secured all 15 votes in the Security Council to fill the final vacancy on the Hague-based International Court of Justice after separate but simultaneous elections were held at the UN headquarters.
A vote that brings cheer to a billion India’s nominee Judge Bhandari re-elected to ICJ General Assembly 183 Secur… https://t.co/0HcfMCEMwE
— Syed Akbaruddin (@AkbaruddinIndia)
Intense efforts were made since June when India announced Judge Dalveer Bhandari’s name for the International Court of Justice and support was sought from nearly 175 nations, including at the highest level, culminating in his re-election to the world court.
According to officials, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj directly spoke with her counterparts from nearly 60 countries to push Bhandari’s case.
In the run up to the re-election, India made intense positive campaign regarding the candidature. It raised the issue at every possible meeting at various levels, an official said.
At the highest level also, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue during his meetings with world leaders, the official said.
“India never indulged in negative campaign. It was run on the strength of our candidate and strength of India strong constitutional system,” an official said.
How the drama unfolded at the UN
In a dramatic move, British Permanent Representative to the UN Matthew 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 3pm (local time) for the 12th round of voting.
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 Greenwood’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…,” Rycroft said.
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 Rycroft and Akbaruddin.
India refused to budge against any kind of pressure and insisted to complete the democratic process, sources said.
It was unclear what transpired in the next two hours that forced Britain to withdraw from the race.
In Washington, US President Donald Trump in between 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 the Britain’s supporters at this point of time clearly told them that they would vote for Greenwood 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.
Reading the writing on the wall, Britain decided to withdraw from the race, sources said.
With Bhandari’s election, Britain will not have a judge on the world court’s 15-member panel for the first time.
Also for the first time in 70 years, a permanent member of the Security Council lost to a non-permanent member for a seat in the ICJ.
Bhandari’s victory is also a big boost for India in Kulbhushan Jadhav’s case. The ICJ is likely to deliver its verdict in the case in December. Pakistan has already appointed an ad-hoc judge to the ICJ for the case. Bhandari’s victory means, now India will also have its own judge in the court.
The ICJ has a bench of 15 judges, five of whom are elected every three years for a nine-year term. To be elected, the candidate needed majority in both the chambers.
Established in 1945, the role of the ICJ is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by states and to give advisory opinions on legal questions.