India scored a major diplomatic victory on Monday as its nominee to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Dalveer Bhandari, was re-elected after the United Kingdom withdrew its candidate, Christopher Greenwood.
The U.K. chose to withdraw after it became clear that it would not win the contest in the General Assembly (GA) and it did not have adequate support in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for its attempts to derail the voting process itself.
This is the first time in the 70-year history of the United Nations that the U.K. will not be on the ICJ; and this is the first time that one of the five permanent members of the UNSC lost out to an ordinary member in a race. This is also the first time that one sitting member of the ICJ lost to another sitting member.
The winning candidate required a majority in both the GA and the UNSC, but 11 rounds of voting until last week ended, with India winning in the GA and the U.K. winning in the UNSC. With the U.K. announcing its exit from the race in the 12th round, Justice Bhandari received 183 of the 193 votes in the GA and secured all the 15 votes in the UNSC after separate and simultaneous elections were held at the U.N. headquarters in New York.
The U.K. had nine of the 15 UNSC votes in the previous rounds, leading to a stalemate though India had an overwhelming majority in the GA. It initially wanted to suspend the voting process and move to a conference mechanism that has never been used in the history of the U.N. to break the stalemate. But this move needed the approval of the UNSC in an open voting while voting for the ICJ is through a secret ballot as some members who supported UK candidate was not in favour of suspension of election process.
India’s diplomatic outreach
Meanwhile, India’s diplomatic outreach led by was gathering more support for India in the GA. It had become clear that India was moving towards getting two-thirds of the votes, 128 of them, in the GA. No judge could have occupied the position on the ICJ after two-thirds of the member countries voted against him.
India made it clear that it had no intention to back off, as its support among the member states was clear and demonstrated. By then, some members of UNSC had assured India that they would not support the British proposal to suspend voting and institute an unprecedented conference mechanism.
One hour before the voting was to begin, UK wrote identical letters to the presidents of the UNGA and UNSC that Mr. Greenwood would withdraw from the contest. As per rules, voting proceeded simultaneously, with only Justice Bhandari’s name on the ballot.
Congratulating Justice Bhandari, the U.K. said it would continue to cooperate closely with India at the U.N. and globally.