'Sign of Britain's eroding stature on world stage' says UK media after Justice Dalveer Bhandari's re-election to ICJ

As India hailed Justice Dalveer Bhandari's clear win over Britain's candidate in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UK media saw it as a "humiliating blow" since the country would not have a judge on the court's bench for the first time in 71 years.

Just minutes after an 11th round of voting was scheduled to begin in New York on Monday, a letter was released by the UK mission to the UN announcing that Christopher Greenwood would accept defeat and allow his Indian rival to fill the vacancy in the UN’s principal legal body based in The Hague.

 Sign of Britains eroding stature on world stage says UK media after Justice Dalveer Bhandaris re-election to ICJ

File image of Justice Dalveer Bhandari. News18

The UK media has branded the "acrimonious" vote as a sign of Britain's eroding stature on the world stage.

"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," reported The Guardian.

"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 noted.

Political observers believe the UK had no choice but to back off as it cannot be seen to continue to use its position in the UN Security Council to muscle its way in on important global affairs.

It is also reflective of a wider chain of events triggered by the vote for Brexit in 2016’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 ICJ blow hits harder as the UK is one of the founding members of the United Nations and has had a representative on the ICJ bench since its inception in 1946.

"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," noted The Independent newspaper.

"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.

Greenwood and Bhandari were both hoping to win re-election but this time Lebanon's former ambassador was an unexpected sixth candidate for the five slots.

His victory had left Bhandari fighting for a spot normally reserved for Europeans, and in this case the UK.

In a statement, UK Ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft said: "The UK has concluded that it is wrong to continue to take up the valuable time of the Security Council and the UN General Assembly with further rounds of elections.

"We are naturally disappointed, but it was a competitive field with six strong candidates."

Many attributed Britain's decision to remove itself from the race to the potential impact an intensified battle would have on the economic relationship between India and the UK.

However, India's Acting High Commissioner to the UK Dinesh Patnaik reiterated that diplomats of both countries had been in contact with each other from the very start, which reflects the strong bond between India and the UK.

"A senior representative from the UK foreign office has been in contact from the beginning and expressed the view that it is two friendly countries with similar legal systems in the running. The whole process has been very cordial and it will not impact the bilateral relationship in any way," he said.

But there is no doubt that when Greenwood steps down at the end of his term early in 2018, it will reflect a shift in the balance of power at the UN.

"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," noted the BBC.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph noted how Britain's failure to win the seat "marked the first time in UN history that the candidacy of a permanent member of the security council was challenged."

"The vote represents a significant failure for British diplomacy," it said.

Almost unanimously, the UK media laments what this defeat at the UN means for the UK – a significant diplomatic setback and a symbol of Britain's reduced status on the world stage.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Nov 21, 2017 22:56:38 IST