The re-election of India’s Justice Dalveer Bhandari to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a nine-year term is a “humiliating blow” for the UK, the British media said. Bhandari was re-elected to the world court’s bench with an absolute majority, forcing Britain to withdraw its candidate Christopher Greenwood from the race. With Bhandari filling in the final place on the bench of ICJ, this will be the first time that there will be no British representation in the world court.
Referring to the vote as an “acrimonious” competition, The Guardian reported in dismay that “the UK will not have a judge on the bench of the International Court of Justice for the first time in its 71-year history”. Calling it a second humiliation at the UN in the recent months, it added: “The decision to bow to mounting opposition within the UN general assembly is a humiliating blow to British international prestige and an acceptance of a diminished status in international affairs.” It also analysed the decision from the prism of Brexit adding that, “…some EU nations no longer feel the need to automatically support an isolationist former partner”. Read | How focussed diplomacy won India the International Court of Justice battle
Political observers are of the opinion that UK had no option but to back off because of a wide variety of reasons, including Greenwood’s experience and continuing resentment of the foreign secretary Boris Johnson. The commentators are also reflective of a wider chain of events triggered by the vote for Brexit in last year’s European Union referendum, which has already lost London two prestigious EU institutions – the European Banking Authority to Paris and the European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam.
The Telegraph, on the other hand, called the vote a “significant failure for British diplomacy”. The loss at ICJ comes as a hard blow for Britain as the UK is one of the founding members of the United Nations and has always had a representative on the ICJ bench. Read | How India’s judge Dalveer Bhandari at the ICJ challenges the global status quo
“The UK’s failure to guarantee a place on the court of an organisation it helped to found has been interpreted as a sign of its increasingly irrelevance on the world stage following the decision to leave the European Union,” reported the Independent. “…now there are fears that as the country turns inwards following the vote by vowing to leave the customs union and placing heavy controls on immigration it will no longer be able to command the respect it once did. In contrast India, with its status as the world’s biggest democracy and with a growing economy, is seen as in the ascendancy,” it added.
Calling the decision a reflection of shifting of balance of power at the UN, the BBC said, “The so-called Group of 77 – which represents a coalition of mostly developing nations – has long been pushing for greater influence. The victory of India over the UK will be seen as a huge success for the G77 in pushing back against the traditional northern powers on the security council.” It also said that the vote is “a symbol of Britain’s reduced status on the world stage.” “Britain tried to win an election – but the community of nations backed the other side, no longer fearing any retribution from the traditional powers, no longer listening to what Britain had to say.”