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International Law

Getting the interpretation of 2008 India-Pak Bilateral Agreement right and its relevance in Jhadav Case

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On 21st February 2019, International Court of Justice finished it hearing the arguments of India and Pakistan on Jadhav Case and cases is reserved for deliberation. In 2017 India had instituted proceedings against Pakistan claiming for consular access to Mr.Jadhav (alleged to be Indian Spy by Pakistan) who is convicted for espionage. The case arises out of an Application filed by India under Article 40, paragraph 1, of the Statute of the Court and Article 38 of the Rules read along with Article 1 of the Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes (Optional Protocol) done at Vienna on 24 April 1963.Pakistan has however in its reply statement argued that State of Pakistan was willing to permit consular access upon an undertaking from the State of India that it will co-operate with Pakistan in a mutual investigation about the crimes allegedly perpetrated by Jadhav in the territory of Pakistan and his possession of Indian Passport with wrong credentials. State of Pakistan states its view is legally correct as per paragraph (vi) of the Indo-Pak 2008 Bilateral Agreement on Consular Access.

The interpretation of 2008 Bilateral Agreement is thus important in order to resolve the issue. However, while the State of India considers the 2008 Agreement to be irrelevant and Pakistan relies on a flawed interpretation of the same in order assert the correctness of their action. Getting the interpretation of 2008 Bilateral Agreement right could have saved States from arguing on the uncharted areas of espionage, and the status of military tribunals, indirectly compromising the interests of national security on various notes.

Indian counsels began the arguments by identifying two broad issues arising in the case. The first one relates to the violation of Article 36 of Vienna Convention of Consular Relations (VCCR)1963 and the second is a little extended argument about the relief to be awarded in the said case upon an affirmative decision of the violation of Article 36. Indian Counsels stressed on the importance on the special relief of release pleaded by India, unlike Avena or La Grand Case, where ICJ had ordered reconsideration. They had been confident enough throughout the hearing that the first issue is established on a very simple prima facie observation. However there appears to be a missing point in the Indian take on the case. It fails to address the India-Pakistan2008 Bilateral Agreement on Consular Access interpretatively. It simply relies on a theory that the 2008 Agreement doesn’t modify the obligations of the State of Pakistan under the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations. Perhaps, the State of Pakistan was successfully managing to fix the context of the dispute to an alleged espionage case and led the arguments away from the text of treaties.

There are several ambiguities in the explanation given on 2008 Bilateral Agreement. Not using the full title of the 2008 agreement even once, State of India argued that “(2008 Agreement) is… irrelevant to the assertion of rights to consular access under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention (Para 107 of Verbatim Record 2019/1)”. It is highly unsustainable claim State of India can make, after signing an international agreement titled “Agreement on Consular Access” intending to provide “reciprocal” consular facilities. Such a claim is not consistent with good faith by which States enter into treaty relationships. You may argue Human Rights, but the implementation of the same requires inevitably a system of governance build upon the principle of trust.

By applying Article 41 of VCLTand Article 73 of VCCR India contends that the provisions of 2008 Agreement have no applicability in the instance case. It also relies on the Human Right’s dimension of the Article 36 of VCCR (pages 35-47 of Verbatim Record 2019/1) to establish an erga omnes nature of consular access as a due process of law. It deals casually with the words “supplementary and amplification the provisions thereof” in the text of Article 73. This in my view is a serious lacuna. The word “supplementary” can mean something which is “completing and supporting” the provisions as well. If it solely meant to be augmenting the provisions then there is no need for separate enunciation of the words “confirming”, “supplementing”, “extending” or “amplifying” in the article.   

First of all, Article 73 of VCCR is speaking about the provisions of VCCR as such, and not directly addressing the rights contained therein. It means that the absolute notion of the rights mentioned in VCCR is imaginary and highly expansive of the textual meaning of Article 73.Article 36 of VCCR also is primarily not a human rights provision, although the dimensions of Human rights are easily attributable to it. It deals with procedural aspect of “exercising consular functions” and intents “to facilitate” a smooth exercise of the same. Viewed from such a context the 2008 Agreement is meaningful and relevant. It is decidedly descriptive of the procedure to be adopted by governments of India and Pakistan in cases involving Article 36 of the VCCR.

The Article 36 of the VCCR, paragraph 1 clause (a) speaks about the freedom of consular agents to communicate with nationals of sending state and vice-versa, clause (b) deals with actions to be taken up by the receiving state, without delay, if the nationals under custody request to meet their consuls, and clause (c) right of the consular officer to meet nationals and arrange for legal assistance. But clause (c) also requires consuls to refrain from such actions if the nationals expressly requests so. Paragraph 2 further mandates that the rights referred in paragraph 1 shall be exercised according to the laws and regulations of the receiving state with only subjection that “the purposes” for which the rights are provided must be fulfilled.  

The2008 Bilateral Agreement paragraphs (i-iv) are improving upon these provisions of Article 36. They are not irrelevant as such. The paragraph (ii) makes it obligatory that receiving state immediately inform the sending state the arrest of its nationals, whether the national requests so or not. This is an amplification of right mentioned in paragraph (b) of the Article 36 of VCCR. Paragraph (iv) improves upon the position of paragraph (b) of Article 36 by qualifying the words “without delay” in Article 36(b) with “a maximum limit of 3 months” within which the consular access “must be provided”.  Paragraph (iii) once again improves upon the provisions of the VCCR by making it obligatory again for the receiving state to inform expeditiously about the sentencing of the nationals of sending state. State of India at ICJ could have ideally relied upon these provisions in order to further establish instances of violations of its rights by the State of Pakistan. Although the State of Pakistan has almost violated almost each one of these provisions in the instant case, India’s claim solely relies upon the Vienna Convention (Application Instituting Proceedings, Para 46).The motivations behind State of India in avoiding such a straight legal strategy and choosing the language of Human Rights is something interesting to be investigated. Probably it’s because of the intention to seek remedies beyond “review” or “reconsideration” of case back in the courts of Pakistan.

On the other hand, State of Pakistan claims the paragraph (vi) of 2008 Bilateral Agreement enables them to make the provision for consular access conditional, which is both jurisprudential and interpretatively unsustainable. Jurisprudentially, such an argument abridges the guarantee of the right of consular access, a ‘due process principle ‘codified under Article 36 of VCCR. Interpretatively, paragraph (vi) not cannot be argued successfully as a provision dealing with consular access. Although the paragraph (vi) states thus “in case of arrest, detention or sentence made on political or security grounds, each side may examine the case on its merits”, it is not clear as to whether this could mean limiting the right to consular access.

Both the paragraphs (v) and (vii), i.e. to say antecedent and subsequent to para (vi), deals with the repatriation of the individuals arrested, detained or convicted inside the territory of receiving state upon the fulfilment of certain conditions by the sending state. Just because the Agreement is titled after Consular Access, it is highly imaginative to load paragraph (vi) with explanation on consular access when both the paragraphs (v) and (vii) are dealing predominantly with repatriation after detention or conviction. Right to Consular Access is a right coming into the effect at the very first moment of the arrest or sometimes even when a decision to make an arrest is made by the receiving state.

However arguing on the false premise presented by State of Pakistan, India Counsels had to the extent the breadth of its own arguments, finally ending up with claims like interests of national security cannot be self-certified by nations concerned. This is in direct contravention to Indian position in various human rights forum that it cannot allow for politicised international organisations or international tribunals to decide upon the issues of national security. Further these arguments, if addressed seriously by the International Court, are going to change the composure of the jurisprudence of international law. Although such an evolution of jurisprudence is desirable from the angle of human rights, it has the danger of exposing diplomatically the weaker State’s sovereignty to a politicized International arena. This could have been possibly be avoided by solely relying upon positive legal materials such as Vienna Convention 1963 and 2008 Bilateral Agreement. The outcome of judgement could be no different, but would also have saved the principle of State sovereignty. The lack of international law expertise of developing nations was quite visible throughout the hearing.

Nithin Ramakrishnan is an honorary fellow of the Centre for Economy, Development and Law (CED&L), an academic think tank backed by Government of Kerala. He is also an Assistant Professor of Law, at Chinmaya University for Sanskrit and Indic Traditions, Ernakulam, India.

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International Law

Carl Schmitt for the XXI Century

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For decades, the scholars of international relations have confused the term “New World order” in the social, political, or economic spheres. Even today, few scholars confuse the term with the information age, internet, universalism, globalization, and  American imperialism. Unlike the complex categorization of the New World Order, the concept of the Old World Order was purely a juridical phenomenon. However, from standpoint of modernity, the term New World order is a purely ideological and political phenomenon, which embodies various displays such as liberal democracy, financial capitalism, and technological imperialism.

In his Magnus Opus “The concept of the Political”, Carl Schmitt lauded a harsh criticism on liberal ideology and favored competitive decisionism over it. This is why according to Schmitt’s critics; the whole text in “The concept of the political” is filled with authoritarian overtones. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that it was the radical political philosophy of Carl Schmitt that paved the way for the conservative revolution in Europe. Even today, his writings are being regarded as one of the major contributions to the field of political philosophy from the 20th century.

Throughout his major works such as “Nomos of the earth”, “the Crisis of Parliamentary democracy”, “The concept of the Political” and “Dictatorship”, Carl Schmitt frequently employs unadorned terms such as ‘actual’, ‘concrete’, ‘real’, and ‘specific’ to apprize his political ideas. However, he advances most of the core political ideas by using the metaphysical framework. For instance, in the broader political domain, Carl Schmitt anticipated the existential dimension of the ‘actual politics’ in the world today.

On the contrary, in his famous work “The Concept of the Political” readers most encounter the interplay between the abstract and ideal and, the concrete and real aspects of politics. Perhaps, understanding of Schmitt’s discursive distinctions is necessary when it comes to the deconstruction of the liberal promoted intellectual discourse. However, the point should be kept in mind that for Schmitt the concept of the political does not necessarily refer to any concrete subject matter such as “state” or “sovereignty”. In this respect, his concept of the political simply refers to the friend-enemy dialectics or distinction. To be more precise, the categorization of the term “Political” defines the degree of intensity of an association and dissociation.

In addition, the famous friend-enemy dialectics is also the central theme of his famous book “The Concept of the Political”. Likewise, the famous friend-enemy distinction in Schmitt’s famous work has both concrete and existential meaning. Here, the word “enemy” refers to the fight against ‘human totality”, which depends upon the circumstances. In this respect, throughout his work, one of the major focuses of Carl Schmitt was on the subject of  “real Politics”. According to Schmitt, friend, enemy, and battle have real meaning. This is why, throughout his several works; Carl Schmitt remained much concerned with the theory of state and sovereignty. As Schmitt writes;

I do not say the general theory of the state; for the category, the general theory of the state…is a typical concern of the liberal nineteenth century. This category arises from the normative effort to dissolve the concrete state and the concrete Volk in generalities (general education, general theory of the law, and finally general theory of the knowledge; and in this way to destroy their political order”.[1]

As a matter of the fact, for Schmitt, the real politics ends up in battle, as he says, “The normal proves nothing, but the exception proves everything”. Here, Schmitt uses the concept of “exceptionality” to overcome the pragmatism of Liberalism. Although, in his later writings, Carl Schmitt attempted to dissociate the concept of “Political” from the controlling and the limiting spheres but he deliberately failed. One of the major reasons behind Schmitt’s isolation of the concept of the political is that he wanted to limit the categorization of friend-enemy distinction. Another major purpose of Schmitt was to purify the concept of the “Political” was by dissociating it from the subject-object duality. According to Schmitt, the concept of the political was not a subject matter and has no limit at all. Perhaps, this is why Schmitt advocated looking beyond the ordinary conception and definition of politics in textbooks.

For Schmitt, it was Liberalism, which introduced the absolutist conception of politics by destroying its actual meaning. In this respect, he developed his very idea of the “Political” against the backdrop of the “human totality” (Gesamtheit Von Menschen). Today’s Europe should remember the bloody revolutionary year of 1848 because the so-called economic prosperity, technological progress, and the self-assured positivism of the last century have come together to produce long and deep amnesia. Nonetheless, the fact cannot be denied that the revolutionary events of1848 had brought deep anxiety and fear for the ordinary Europeans. For instance, the famous sentence from the year 1848 reads;

For this reason, fear grabs hold of the genius at a different time than it does normal people. the latter recognizes the danger at the time of danger; up to that, they are not secure, and if the danger has passed, then they are secure. The genius is the strongest precisely at the time of danger”.

Unfortunately, it was the intellectual predicament at the European stage in the year 1848 that caused revolutionary anxiety and distress among ordinary Europeans. Today, ordinary Europeans face similar situations in the social, political, and ideological spheres. The growing anxieties of the European public consciousness cannot be grasped without taking into account Carl Schmitt’s critique of liberal democracy. A century and a half ago, by embracing liberal democracy under the auspices of free-market capitalism, the Europeans played a pivotal role in the self-destruction of the European spirit.

The vicious technological drive under liberal capitalism led the European civilization towards crony centralism, industrialism, mechanization, and above all singularity. Today, neoliberal capitalism has transformed the world into a consumer-hyped mechanized factory in which humanity appears as the by-product of its own artificial creation. The unstructured mechanization of humanity in the last century has brought human civilization to technological crossroads. Hence, the technological drive under liberal democratic capitalism is presenting a huge threat to human civilizational identity.


[1] Wolin, Richard, Carl Schmitt, Political Existentialism, and the Total State, Theory and Society, volume no. 19, no. 4, 1990 (pp. 389-416). Schmitt deemed the friend-enemy dialectics as the cornerstone of his critique on liberalism and universalism.

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International Law

Democratic Backsliding: A Framework for Understanding and Combatting it

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Democracy is suffering setbacks around the world. Over the past decade, the number of liberal democracies has shrunk from 41 to 32. Today, 34 percent of the global population lives in 25 countries moving in the direction of autocracy. By contrast, only 16 countries are undergoing a process of democratization, representing just 4 percent of the global population. Reflecting these troubling trends, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, during her confirmation hearing, highlighted democratic backsliding – along with climate change, conflict and state collapse, and COVID-19 – as among the “four interconnected and gargantuan challenges” that will guide the Biden Administration’s development priorities.

However, defining “democratic backsliding” is far from straightforward. Practitioners and policymakers too often refer to “democratic backsliding” broadly, but there is a high degree of variation in how backsliding manifests in different contexts. This imprecise approach is problematic because it can lead to an inaccurate analysis of events in a country and thereby inappropriate or ineffective solutions.

To prevent or mitigate democratic backsliding, policymakers need a definition of the concept that captures its multi-dimensional nature. It must include the actors responsible for the democratic erosion, the groups imperiled by it, as well as the allies who can help reverse the worst effects of backsliding. 

To address this gap, the International Republican Institute developed a conceptual framework to help practitioners and policymakers more precisely define and analyze how democratic backsliding (or “closing democratic space”) is transpiring and then devise foreign assistance programs to combat it.  Shifting away from broad generalizations that a country is moving forward or backward vis-à-vis democracy—which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to derive specific solutions—the framework breaks closing democratic space into six distinct, and sometimes interrelated, subsectors or “spaces.”

Political/Electoral: Encompasses the arena for political competition and the ability of citizens to hold their government accountable through elections. Examples of closing political or electoral space range from fraudulent election processes and the arrest or harassment of political leaders to burdensome administrative barriers to political party registration or campaigning.

Economic: Refers to the relationship between a country’s economic market structure, including access and regulation, and political competition. Examples of closing economic space include selective or politically motivated audits or distribution of government licenses, contracts, or tax benefits.

Civic/Associational: Describes the space where citizens meet to discuss and/or advocate for issues, needs, and priorities outside the purview of the government. Examples of closing civic or associational space include harassment or co-optation of civic actors or civil society organizations and administrative barriers designed to hamper civil society organizations’ goals including limiting or making it arduous to access resources.

Informational: Captures the venues that afford citizens the opportunity to learn about government performance or hold elected leaders to account, including the media environment and the digital realm. h. Examples of closing informational space consist of laws criminalizing online speech or activity, restrictions on accessing the internet or applications, censorship (including self-censorship), and editorial pressure or harassment of journalists.  

Individual: Encapsulates the space where individuals, including public intellectuals, academics, artists, and cultural leaders– including those traditionally marginalized based on religious, ethnicity, language, or sexual orientation–can exercise basic freedoms related to speech, property, movement, and equality under the law. Common tactics of closing individual space include formal and informal restrictions on basic rights to assemble, protest, or otherwise exercise free speech; censorship, surveillance, or harassment of cultural figures or those critical of government actions; and scapegoating or harassing identity groups.

Governing: Comprises the role of state institutions, at all levels, within political processes. Typical instances of closing the governing space include partisan control of government entities such as courts, election commissions, security services, regulatory bodies; informal control of such governing bodies through nepotism or patronage networks; and legal changes that weaken the balance of powers in favor of the executive branch.

Examining democratic backsliding through this framework forces practitioners and policymakers to more precisely identify how and where democratic space is closing and who is affected. This enhanced understanding enables officials to craft more targeted interventions.

For example, analysts were quick to note Myanmar’s swift about-face toward autocracy.  This might be true, but how does this high-level generalization help craft an effective policy and foreign aid response, beyond emphasizing a need to target funds on strengthening democracy to reverse the trend? In short, it does not.  If practitioners and policymakers had dissected Myanmar’s backsliding using the six-part framework, it would have highlighted specific opportunities for intervention.  This systematic analysis reveals the regime has closed civic space, via forbidding large gatherings, as well as the information space, by outlawing online exchanges and unsanctioned news, even suspending most television broadcasts.  One could easily populate the other four spaces with recent examples, as well. 

Immediately, we see how this exercise leads to more targeted interventions—support to keep news outlets operating, for example, via software the government cannot hack—that, collectively, can help slow backsliding.  Using the framework also compels practitioners and policymakers to consider where there might be spillover—closing in one space that might bleed into another space—and what should be done to mitigate further closing.

Finally, using this framework to examine the strength of Myanmar’s democratic institutions and norms prior to the February coup d’etat may have revealed shortcomings that, if addressed, could have slowed or lessened the impact of the sudden democratic decline. For example, the high-profile arrest of journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo in December 2017 was a significant signal that Myanmar’s information space was closing. Laws or actions to increase protections for journalists and media outlets, could have strengthened the media environment prior to the coup, making it more difficult for the military to close the information space.

A more precise diagnosis of the problem of democratic backsliding is the first step in crafting more effective and efficient solutions. This framework provides practitioners and policymakers a practical way to more thoroughly examine closing space situations and design holistic policies and interventions that address both the immediate challenge and longer-term issue of maintaining and growing democratic gains globally.

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International Law

Authentic Justice Thus Everlasting Peace: Because We Are One

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The ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestine conflict is a good thing. We thank God for it. Be it between two individuals or institutions or nations or the internal colonial and colonized, war does not do anything except cause more immediate or future mass misery and human destruction. Our continued memories of our interpersonal and international and internal colonial and civil wars and the memorials we erect to remember them recall and record wounds and pains we never get over. 

So it becomes a bothersome puzzle as to why we human beings still just don’t get that war like oppression leads to nowhere except to more human devastation. And we should have learned by now but have not that peacemaking like ceasefires mean nothing without justice.

 It is the reason why I constantly find myself correcting those who stress Peace and Justice.No Justice No Peace is more than a cliche.It is real politic emotionally, economically, socially, and spiritually.

Our American inner cities like those in every continent where culturally different and similar people live cramped impoverished lives and nations and colonial enclaves with such unequal wealth remind us of their continued explosive potentialities when peace is once again declared but with no justice.Everyone deserves a decent quality of life which not only includes material necessities but more importantly emotional and spiritual freedoms and other liberations.Not just the victors who conquer and rule and not just the rich and otherwise privileged.

 And until such  justices are  assured to everyone peacemaking is merely a bandaid on cancerous societal or International conflictual soars which come to only benefit those who profit from wars which are bound to come around again when there is no justice and thus peace such as  family destroying divorce lawyers, blood hungry media to sell more subscriptions , arms dealers to sell more murderous technologies, politicians needing  votes so start and prolong wars, and military men and women seeking promotion while practicing their killing capacities.

So if those of us who devoutly practice our  faiths or our golden moral principles,  let us say always and pray and advocate justice and peace always  as a vital public good  and  do justice then lasting peace in our personal lives and insist that national leaders, our own and others do the same in their conduct of international affairs and affairs with those who are stateless in this global world. 

All such pleading is essential since we are all brothers and sisters in the eyes of God who created all of us  in God’s image as one humanity  out of  everlasting divine love for all of us so we should love each other as God loves all of us  leading to desiring justice and thus lasting peace for each and every one of us.

This is difficult for those in international affairs to understand who take more conventional secular approaches to historical and contemporary justice and peace challenges as if our universal spiritual connectivennes  ( not to be confused with the vast diversity of organized religions)as human beings which makes us all brothers and sisters has no relevance. But if we are going to find true enduring peace we have no alternative but to turn our backs on increasingly useless secular methods which go either way, stressing peace then justice or justice then peace and understand how much we must begin to explore and implement approaches which we look at each other as spiritually connected brothers and sisters in which it is the expectation that peace only comes and lasts when  through the equal enjoyment of justices for every human being, we restore our universal kindred rooted in the everlasting love of God and thus for each other, no matter the different ways in which we define God or positive moral principles which originate in understandings that we human beings in all our diversities are one and thus brothers and sisters.

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