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Religious Hatred & International Law

Rashad Aslam

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Racism has climbed the political agenda at national, and international levels. Reports from national and international non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) and inter-governmental organisations have focused considerable attention on racism and xenophobia and document an increase in racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and race-related activities. Hate speech is one form of racism   which is directed to the victim. The current challenges posed by hate speech across the globe have prompted the need to better understand the evolution of the right to be free from the harm of hate speech as codified within Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.Martin Luther King once purported that, ‘like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity’.

The   contribution that is made by   international law to religion is   in the form of universalistic norms protecting religious diversity. Such   rules are to be found in early modern treaties such as Westphalia ending the Thirty Years War in 1648 and Vienna ending the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, however, the modern period of international guarantees, often violated, of religious freedom was guaranteed by Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant after the First World War.

The European Court of HumanRights (ECtHR)

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) serves as the regional human rights enforcement mechanism for the 47 signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).Article 10 Section 1 of the ECHR guarantees the freedom of expression―without interference by public authority, in contrary  Section 2 of the same article states that this freedom is ―subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society . . . Although The US . Constitution considers freedom of speech as a paramount right, on the contrary, the European model considers it  merely as one right that must be weighed against other democratic rights.

The decisions of the European Court that came into force in April 2010 are binding on the member states in judgments to which they are parties. This new protocol strengthened the enforcement abilities of the European Court. Several decisions have come out of the European Court concerning the intersection of freedom of speech and incitement to racial and religious hatred, including two cases which illuminate the boundary between what is acceptable and unacceptable speech, as determined by the ECHR.

Applying Article 10 to Quran burning, the European Court is likely to find that a state is within its rights to restrict such an act. Quran burning is proscribed in the domestic laws of many member states. Those laws comport with the goals listed in Article 10 Section 2 because, arguably, they protect ―the interests of national security by limiting violence against nationals, both in country and in military theaters, like Iraq and Afghanistan. They protect ―the rights of other by limiting violent demonstrations aimed squarely at one sector of society: Muslims. Furthermore, like in Giniewski, Quran burning is likely to be considered violence, so the European Court should broadly construe its responsibility to intervene.

The International Convention on Civil and PoliticalRights (ICCPR)

ICCPR, is an international agreement that names all civil and political rights enjoyed by the citizens of its member states, including freedoms of speech. It is unique because no single designated court adjudicates this convention.Article19oftheICCPRguarantees freedom of expression in general, but Article 20 proscribes war propaganda and ―any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. Under Art 19(3) of the ICCPR, restrictions on free speech must satisfy three criteria: they must be provided by law; they must be based on permissible grounds (including the protection of rights or reputation of others and the protection of public order); and must be necessary to achieve a legitimate aim (which involves a proportionality analysis).

The ICCPR clearly illustrates the difference in the American and European approaches to the issue of speech protection. Essentially, European law declines to subscribe to the principle of content neutrality, the idea that speech cannot be restricted based on the substance of a message. By qualifying speech freedom so dramatically in Article 20, the drafters of the ICCPR weaken the ―value judgment in Article 19 that freedom of speech is an important individual right that should be protected, thereby declaring that some ideas are so harmful that they should not be protected.

Moreover , Article 4 of The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) provides that measures designed to suppress hate speech need to be implemented with ‘due regard to the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rights expressly set forth in article 5 of this Convention’.It is generally accepted that no area of human rights is so distant from a meaningful international consensus as the right to religious diversity, despite the fact that the rights to religious freedoms enshrined  in these important international instruments. Furthermore,   virtually  there is no effective universal supervision of international rights to religious diversity. There is, however, a regional exception in European human rights law. For example, Article 9 of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Despite  the fact that   Article –  9 contain the   right and freed of religion,   however , Article 9 has been applied, albeit less often and less forcefully , by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg compared to the other parts of European convention .

Therefore  , it can   be concluded that there are mechanism  to bring the  perpetrator of  hate speech to justice but  it all  depends on the  willingness and the racial  conscious  of the state . The quran  burning is a regular occurrence but is being neglected by the  European nations  . 

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International Law

South China Sea Dialogue 2019

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Centre for Security Studies, O P Jindal Global University organized (November 29) an international conference on the topic ‘The South China Sea: Current Challenges and Future Perspective’ at India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi. During the conference presentations were made by 14 eminent scholars from different think tanks and universities of India and attended by more than 50 scholars, academics, media persons, and students.

While giving the introductory remarks Dr. Pankaj Jha, coordinator of the conference and Centre for Security Studies said that the purpose is to highlight the evolving dynamics in the South China / East Vietnam sea, and how it would have an impact on great power politics as well as the faith on the international maritime order. He clearly said that the time has come for the international community to take note of the developments in SCS and work out a feasible solution protecting interest of smaller nations. In his opening address Professor Sreeram Chaulia, Dean of Jindal School of International Affairs said that the policy of US president while referring to his newly released book ‘Trumped’ talked about post US international order and gave a detailed description about how the Beijing led order would be a problem for the international community. He exhorted the scholars and academics to raise the issue in every forum to highlight the problems and cautioned that US has to commit itself to international responsibilities rather than asking for a raise for the costs of stationing US troops in Korea and Japan. He said the all UNSC permanent members should take cognizance of the developments and call a meeting of UNSC to highlight the need to take precautionary measures.

The draft COC need to be finalized without compromising on the rights of smaller nations such as Vietnam. Professor Brahma Chellaney said that Vietnam’s response to Chinese activities in Vanguard bank need to be noted and lauded. He said that despite dismal and minimum support from international community, Vietnam saw to it that its EEZ and its maritime interests are not hampered and put up a strong resistance to China. He said that the global community needs more action, and commitment to the cause otherwise the world will witness that the South China Sea might turn into a Beijing lake. He said that China has created a reclaimed area equivalent to Washington DC in the SCS region, and it would take lot of ammunition to flatten the reclaimed land. For a free Indo-Pacific Vision, South China Sea is the critical connector. The attention that should be given to the region should be more from India also as the effect would be effect in Indian Ocean also. The military activities and also demarcation of illegal maritime zones by China means that it would become completely under Chinese control. He said that Exxon Mobil a US company is planning to withdraw from South China Sea, and it means that US influence is incrementally eroding. The withdrawal of Exxon Mobil would mean that the company is not sure of US support for its exploration activities.

In the first session of the conference, Dr. Rajaram panda, the Governing Council member ofICWA of Ministry of External Affairs supported think tank said that the time has come to limit Chinese assertive postures and undertake deep thinking so that the increasing Chinese activities can be curbed, and China must comply with international rules and regulations. He said that the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) to which China is a signatory need to be revised and amended so that threat or use of force should be seen as an act of aggression by any dialogue partner. He said that there are a number of issues involved in the strategic sea lanes and it needs ASEAN activism to address these issues so that the ASEAN multilateral organization stay relevant for its members. 

Dr Vijay Sakhuja said that while maritime domain awareness and standard operating procedures need to be framed in the context of South China Sea, the challenge is to create marine domain awareness also which is more about undersea minerals, and other valuable resources. Unfortunately, the debate is about maritime zones not the huge resources which exists and for which China has started exploration and research activities taking non-contentious zones as its domain. Oliver Gonsalves of NMF, an Indian Navy think tank said that the oil exploration activities and legitimate research activities has been thwarted by Chinese naval activities and many nations have withdrawn from the EEZ of the claimant states with the exception of China. Chinese dominance in strategic sea lanes have an impact on international trade and commerce and also marine life as well as fishing activities. Dr Faisal Ahmed, said that there are economic aspects of Chinese activities and proposed that the coastal countries and other partner countries can engage in joint exploration, knowledge sharing, and mutual capacity building in this area.

Moreover, fisheries in SCS accounts for an estimated 12 per cent of the global fish catch. It is however likely to witness a decline owing to the damaging coral reefs caused due to artificial islands and installations. The marine ecosystem is becoming gradually vulnerable, which is a serious cause of concern. Dr. Nguyen Ba Cuong, from Scientific Research Institute of Sea & Islands, Vietnam, highlighted Vietnam’s Perspective on Developments in the SCS and said that China has dispatched a ship for a months-long seismic survey, together with armed escorts, into Tu Chinh–Vung May Basin along with its continued harassments with Vietnam’s longstanding oil and gas activities in Nam Con Son Basin since June, whichever is all well within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. These and other developments underscored the increasing violations of China on its neighbors’ EEZ and continental shelves and just how critical managing and resolving tensions in the South China Sea are, for Vietnam and for region. He said that the international community needs to take note of Chinese expansionism, the power of international law in securing the rule-based international system, and the effective balance of power which is essential for maintaining the law and order in the Indo-Pacific region.

Chairing the second session, Brigadier (Dr.) Vinod Anand, Research Director, Vivekananda International Foundation said that the resolution of SCS is important for the safety and security of the maritime trade and commerce and in case it is not resolved under certain international guidelines then the situation would become grim and alarming. Navy Captain(Dr.) Sarabjeet Parmar, Executive Director, National Maritime Foundation opined that the South China Sea is host to multiple case studies revolving round power dynamics, rules-based order, sovereignty of islands, and the interpretation, respect, and adherence to international law. The tribunal ruling on the Philippines-China case can be viewed as a landmark judgment, which unfortunately cannot be enforced as UNCLOS works on the principle of global acceptability. He underlined and analyzed critical aspects that are germane to sovereignty, international laws and related aspects vis-à-vis the South China Sea.

Ms. Sana Hashmi, ex- consultant MEA said that over the years, China has strived to enhance its naval capabilities in the region, and a major objective behind this naval expansion is to reinforce its sovereignty claims on the South China Sea. The Chinese claims, based on arguably dubious historical precedents, are challenged by a number of countries in the region. So far, some of the claimants involved have maintained strong uncompromising positions. It has internal political dynamics involved in its international posturing. Dr. Udai Bhanu Singh from IDSA said major powers reacted to the South China Sea developments differently. As pointed out by a Chatham House study, while the leadership of Australia, India and Japan, respectively, do not have common views on China, they agree that China must be managed. Neither India, nor indeed Japan or Australia would like to see the relationship with China as a zero sum game. The U.S. takes no position on competing sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, and has not signed UNCLOS. But the US does encourage all countries to uphold international law, including the

Law of the Sea as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention, and to respect unimpeded lawful commerce, freedom of navigation and over flight, and peaceful dispute resolution.

DrXuan Vinh Vo from Vietnam opined that ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in 2012 failed to release the communique due to the disagreement over the South China Sea dispute. After the release of a separate statement on the current developments in the South China Sea in the wake of China’s illegal deployment of oil rig in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone and continental shelf in 2014, ASEAN’s cooperative spirit has continued to decrease. Although expressing the grouping’s position, phrases such as ‘some leaders’, and ‘some ministers’ have appeared in chairman’s statements and joint communiques in recently instead of ‘leaders’ or ‘ministers’ as it used to be. The process of COC negotiation process has heavily effected by Chinese approach, especially close economic relations between China and some ASEAN member states. It is difficult for ASEAN and China to reach a legally binding COC in 2021 as scheduled.

Presiding over the last session of the Conference Dr.Jyoti MPathania, Senior Fellow of Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) an Indian Army think tank, said that there is a need to look for possible solutions of this problem and the international community will have to undertake the task of bringing order in the region. General Shashi Asthana from United Service Institution (USI) said that while much has been said about Quad in strategic circles but SCS is the possible theater where the utility of this grouping can be explored. However, it has its limitations. It can be put to tests through group sail and joint exercises. Undertaking surveillance activities and enforcing order through military means should be an option. There are chances of flare up but then the Quad members will have to activate their international standing to force China to comply with international maritime order.

Rudroneel Ghosh, Assistant Editor, Times of India said the South China Sea (SCS) has been in media limelight in recent years due to China’s aggressive activities in the region. Beijing has been building artificial islands and militarizing some of them to bolster its claims over the entire SCS area. This, despite the fact that its so-called Nine-Dash Line cartographical claim was rejected in 2016 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in a case brought by the Philippines. He cautioned that there is also a tendency to view the SCS issue exclusively through the prism of China and a matter between China and Southeast Asian nations. And this can be counterproductive to sustaining international media attention on the SCS, which is necessary to evolve a consensus-based architecture in line with international law.

Dr.Sripathi Narayanan said the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) and Indo-Pacific region symbolises the shift in the global centre of gravity from the Euro-centric Atlantic order to the Asian landmass. The prevailing contestation is not only confined to hegemony and power politics but also scripting the discourse on the global order. While the MSR, as a subset of the BRI is a political articulation stemming out of infrastructure projects, the Indo-Pacific is a reverse, wherein the political posturing is yet to fructify in any visible form.

In his concluding remarks Dr. Pankaj Jha said China’s assertive postures and threatening tactics that it has adopted with India’s oil exploration initiatives and also Indian naval ships have been intimidated through radio messages in the past. Given the fact that South China Sea, Sunda, Lombok and Makassar straits are areas of secondary maritime interest from India but Chinese actions to demarcate the non-contentious area also as disputed zones would add to India’s problems. The Chinese dominance in South China Sea would trickle down in Indian Ocean also and therefore India will have to make tactical and strategic choices to constrain Chinese actions in the region.He said that there is a need for dialogue partners dialogue on the subject while keeping ASEAN in the loop. There is a need for elevating East Asia Summit for more proactive role in the region.

The rapporteurs to the conference presented the findings and the summary report of the presentations by Srimal Fernando

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International Law

The clash of interests upon Intellectual Property Rights between Japan and Russia: The Kuril Islands case

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The Kuril Islands, Russia’s Kurilskiy Ostrova, Japan’s Chishima-Retto, an archipelago in the Sakhalin region, far east of Russia, encompassing 750 miles from the southern end of the Kamchatka Peninsula (Russia) to the northeast corner of Hokkaido Island, Japan (750 km) from the Pacific Ocean with 56 small islands which cover 6,000 square miles (15,600 sq km). The archipelago was inhabited by Ainu, and currently, are settled by Russians and Japanese.

The Kuril Islands are strategically important for both Japan and Russia. Conflict over the islands has continued throughout history. Even in these areas, there is still some misunderstanding regarding the production and fishing of islands on the island. It is an obvious fact that Russia has a number of military bases on the islands and is trying to secure safe access to the Pacific Ocean. Russia has even begun several social and economic development programs that have been allocating about 70 billion rubles(around $ 1.1 billion) in the federal budget for the development of these regions since 2014 to provide its security in the region.

According to the Ministry of Economic Development of the Sakhalin region, in 2015, Russia has launched out a new federal target program “Socio-Economic Development of the Kuril Islands (Sakhalin Oblast) for 2016-2025 years” with total funding of 68.9 billion rubles. The main priority was given to the development of the transport system, infrastructure, and improvement of living conditions. Although the development plans seemed to be decisive, locals always complain that the program did not have yet an effect on unemployment, low wages and lack of roads in the region.Local residents say that while the salaries are low, living costs are high and they have to do some work to finish their jobs.

Gydrostroy is one of the main employers on the Kuril islands. Locals built a hospital, a kindergarten, and an airport in Kurilsk several years ago. However, most locals point out that finding a job is difficult, salaries are not competitive, and most of their jobs are taken by migrant workers in the region. The island is rich in terms of natural resources, including the unique rhenium resources of the Kudryavyi volcano, but the main income comes from the fishing industry and the production of fish rye. The fish products of the island exported to Russia is quite popular in the country.

The Kuril Islands were annexed by the Soviet Union following the landing operation in the Kuril Islands at the end of World War II. The territorial dispute prevents Russia and Japan from signing an official peace treaty. Japan claims four islands: Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashir, and Iturup. According to the report given by the Russian leader Vladimir Putin to Bloomberg, Russia does not want to have trade-in territories. Many policy analysts do believe that Russia will never abandon the island in exchange for greater economic cooperation. Based on the opinion of Tamerlan Abdikeev, the founder of Tokyo-based INVERO Advisors, there are several problematic issues with the deployment of whether Russian or U.S military bases in Japan if Japan acquires one of the islands, which would not necessarily be accepted by the Russian side. He also added that economic cooperation between Japan and Russia will not be boosted upwithout taking clear-cut decisions concerning the resolution of the Kuril Islands. Therefore, it is difficult to expect mutual trust without signing an effective peace contract between the two countries.Even keeping the “status quo” between the two countries means there is little chance of change in the region. The “status quo” condition does not mean that the two parties could achieve something significant in this matter.Russia in the example of Kuril islands does not have the mind to give up the islands, as it wants those islands as the main trade and geostrategic zone of the country.

In the coming future, Russia is planning to place additional missile systems from the Hokkaido region to the two islands north of the Kuril Islands chain to strengthen its defense capabilities in the region. This plan shows Russia’s strategic importance to the Kuril Islands for the protection of the Achat Sea and nuclear forces against the United States. Russia opposes the deployment of US missile forces in the Asia-Pacific region. As the Japanese government official pointed out, while Russia has strongly criticized the United States for building a missile defense network, but they are steadily strengthening their own defense systems in the region.

In November 2016, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the first time hosted Vladimir Putin during his first official visit to G-7 country concerning achieving breakthrough over the territory of Japan’s northern coast. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.The four islands are known as the South Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan and have been controversial for more than seventy years. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the Northern Territory consists of four islands on the northeast coast of the Hokkaido and Nemuro peninsula. These are Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri, and Etorofu. The northern territory is not included in the Kuril Islands.

The consistent position of Japan in this conflict is that the Northern Territories, Takeshima, and Senkaku islands are the inherent part of Japan-based on historical facts and international law that illegally annexed by Russia. (See Annexes 30 and 31 below)

In conclusion, it should be noted that Russia prefers political principles rather than legal principles in resolving territorial disputes with Japan. Russia does think that if one of those islands is handed over to Japan, the security of Russia on the American side may be in doubt. Japan, on the other hand, believes that it is more important for him to ensure territorial integrity and to work in accordance with the legal principles than political issues. Whenever the parties come together for a peace agreement, the issue remains stable and no small change is apparent. Thus, the outcome of the negotiations between the parties remains numb.

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Will December 2019 represent the nadir of multilateralism and Human Rights?

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Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The formal inception of Human Rights Day dates from 1950, after the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V) inviting all States and interested organizations to adopt 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day. When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, with 48 states in favor and eight abstentions, it was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” That “common standard” lies in tatters today. The US President Donald Trump’s decision in July 2018 to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva is a major challenge for the post World War II international order. The US Permanent Representative to the UN in New York at that time Ms Nikki Haley described the Human Rights Council as a “hypocritical and self-serving organisation” that displayed “unending hostility towards Israel“. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced the Council as “a protector of human rights abusers.”

In the past few weeks, the withering away of the promise of human rights protections along with other multilateral mechanisms has played out in multiple ways.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 which was passed by the US Congress on 15 November 2019 addresses Hong Kong’s status under U.S. law and imposes sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong. The Department of State shall certify annually to Congress as to whether Hong Kong warrants its unique treatment under various treaties, agreements, and U.S. law. The analysis shall evaluate whether Hong Kong is upholding the rule of law and protecting rights enumerated in various documents, including (1) the agreement between the United Kingdom and China regarding Hong Kong’s return to China, and (2) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Predictably the reaction from the Chinese Government was strong with the spokesperson of their Foreign Ministry warning that they were ready to “retaliate with determination” and with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing the US legislation as “madness” that will damage the bilateral relationship.

Just as Venezuela started dropping off the radar of the human rights watchers, the situation in Chile and Bolivia deteriorated. The Amnesty International’s recent report on Chile observes that security forces have engaged in widespread and indiscriminate attacks against protesters over the last month. The eye injuries to protesters have been of particular concern. In Bolivia, former President Evo Morales has made allegations of genocide being perpetrated. There is a genuine fear that political interests are pushing human rights to the backburner and worse still being used as a tool to promote political ends and undermine opponents. Iran has forcefully refuted reports about the death toll in the recent protests after a decision by authorities to ration gasoline and substantially increase the fuel price. It has accused US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tweet in which he supported the protests and described the protesters as “the people of Iran.”

In the midst of this, the decision by The Gambia to take Myanmar to the International Court of Justice is being followed with deep interest. The Gambia took the matter to the ICJ even as the United Nations Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (the “Myanmar Mechanism”), led by the Head of the Myanmar Mechanism, Mr. Nicholas Koumjian, conducted the Mechanism’s first mission to the region by visiting Bangladesh from 9 to 14 November 2019. The world court will hold public hearings from 10 to 12 December 2019 on  the case concerning Application of  the  Convention  on  the  Prevention  and  Punishment  of  the  Crime  of  Genocide  (The  Gambia v. Myanmar). The Gambia argues, inter alia, that genocidal acts were committed by the Myanmar military during operations from around October 2016 with the intention to destroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part. The news that Myanmar State Counsellor and Nobel Peace Prize Awardee for non-violent struggle for democracy and Human Rights, Aung San Suu Kyi will personally lead a team to The Hague to “defend the national interest of Myanmar” has fuelled interest in the case world-wide. Whether these developments are a thumbs-up for the ICJ or a thumbs down for the UN human rights architecture is something on which the jury is still out.

The fact that the UN Security Council is divided especially on human rights related issues is evident in the recent positions of the members on the US change in stance regarding the status of Israeli settlements. Before a meeting of the Security Council on 20 November 2019, five European allies of the United States — Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland — reiterated in a joint statement that “all settlement activity is illegal under international law” and also reiterated concern “about the calls for a possible annexation of areas in the West Bank.” In this regard, the sharp divisions on Syria also came to a head in September this year when Russia cast its thirteenth of U.N. Security Council action on the Syrian conflict, blocking a demand for a truce in northwest Syria because it does not include an exemption for military offensives against U.N. blacklisted militant groups.

And now, some more un-encouraging news. The crisis on the global trade front is equally, if not more, disconcerting. The issue at hand is the end of the WTO’s dispute settlement body mechanism.

The South China Morning Post observed, “The world will not end on December 10, yet for many who have spent their careers within the global trading oversight system, the date has apocalyptic consequences. That is when the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) highest dispute-resolution body will cease to function after the administration of US President Donald Trump blocked reappointments to its panel.” Without a working appeals system, international trade disputes may never see resolution and could quickly evolve into tit-for-tat tariff wars that spiral out of control.” Additionally as Bloomberg reported the Trump administration has also ratcheted up its pressure on the World Trade Organization by raising the possibility of blocking the approval of the institution’s biennial budget and effectively halting its work starting 2020.

This is indeed quite a big fall for a mechanism which was described as the “most active in the dispute settlement system since the establishment of the organization” with a total of 488 disputes having been brought to the WTO by 2014. In terms of immediate impact of the impending winding down of the DSB, a Reuters report notes, “WTO adjudicators are facing weighty decisions on the U.S.-China tariff tussle, on metal duties imposed by Trump since 2018 and on conflicts between Japan and South Korea and between Qatar and its neighbors. However, those decisions may carry no legal weight because of U.S. steps to disable the appeals process. In a future with no functioning Appellate Body, any party unhappy with an initial ruling could simply file an appeal into a void.”

This development occurs immediately after the refusal of India to join the RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership]. Spelling out the Government of India’s reasons, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal in a written reply to the House said that during the third RCEP Leaders Summit on November 4 in Bangkok, India stated that the current structure did not reflect its guiding principles or address the outstanding issues and concerns of India, in the light of which India did not join the agreement. He said that RCEP had provisions on trade remedies which also cover anti-dumping rules. “Moreover, India was seeking an automatic trigger safeguard mechanism (ATSM) for tackling import surges,” he added. Only time can pronounce on the impact of this development, especially given the fact that India is today a large consumer market with a total GDP of more than US $ 2.6 trillion. The recent NITI Aayog Report on Indian experience with FTAs is essential reading for an understanding of the Indian thinking. The NITI report emphatically stated, “Before getting into any multilateral trade deal India should firstly, review and assess its existing FTAs in terms of benefits to various stakeholders like industry and consumers, trade complementarities and changing trade patterns in the past decade…The over-arching conclusion of this report is that FTAs have to be signed keeping two things in mind, mutually reciprocal terms and focusing on products and services with maximum export potential.”

In essence however, the crisis in multilateralism is also a manifestation of the changing international situation. China’s determined push to occupy top positions in international organizations is a symptom. A Foreign Policy article of October 2019 notes that Chinese nationals now head four of the 15 specialized agencies of the United Nations, namely Food and Agriculture Organization, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Telecommunication Union and the UN Industrial Development Organization. So even as China pushes ahead with its international outreach through the Belt and Road Initiative and its attendant efforts, the USA is receding from the pole position in multilateral affairs.

Last but not the least, the outcome of the UK general election scheduled for 12 December could have a wide-ranging impact on the European Union. Brexit is at the core of these elections and the mandate that the winning combination receives will have a telling effect on the European project. This is compounded by the French position at the 17-18 October Summit where EU heads of state and government failed to reach a decision of opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. EU’s discomfiture with the migration challenge is another signal of the pressures on the liberal order that underpinned the integration journey.

With national interests running rough shod over international cooperation, credible solutions provided by leading powers and responsible states seem to be out of sight of the powers that created the liberal order. This December could well represent the nadir of multilateralism and human rights.

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