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International Law

China’s aggressive moves in South China Sea

Prof. Pankaj Jha

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At the time when the whole world is reeling under the Wuhan virus epidemic, China has upped the ante in South China Sea, knowing very well that the domestic compulsions in the US would be a constraining factor for the global hegemon to undertake any military action in SCS. These maneuvers by China’s People’s Liberation Navy (PLN) are decimating the concept of China’s peaceful/harmonious rise. With Philippines abrogating the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US, the Chinese party leaders feel that it is right time to define Chinese strategic spaces through the use of military power. In October 2019 after a series of incidents in the Vanguard Bank, which falls under EEZ of Vietnam and regular patrols in the non-disputed areas last year, the focus has now shifted to the Union Banks, a group of small islands and land features, closer to central SCS region so that China can control the waterways. Earlier this month Chinese military aircraft conducted anti-submarine drills in those contested waters. This was in response to the USS Mc Campbell sail through the contested region. Further, China conducted joint exercises in mid –March despite knowing very well the risk of annoying other claimant countries. China has also activated its fishermen militia which have outnumbered all countries fishing boats in the SCS to outmaneuver them. These fishermen militia have been closely followed by Chinese coastguard ships as a brute show of power.     

In early March 2020, USS Theodore Roosevelt along with an advanced destroyer made the visit to Danang to mark 25 years of diplomatic relations. China perceived it as a growing closeness between the US and Vietnam as this was the second ever visit by any US carrier strike group to Vietnam. Earlier this week (March 24)the USS Barry (DDG 52), the US navy guided-missile destroyer during a live fire exercise fired a missile in the SCS showcasing its offensive capabilities. A day before that (March 23) Lockheed EP-3E reconnaissance aircraft of US Navy conducted surveillance sorties flying between Taiwan and the Philippines (Bashi Channel). This was in response to the infringement of Taiwan’s air space by Chinese military planes earlier in February.  The US counter moves and live firing exercises has annoyed China to such an extent that it has been firing lasers on US surveillance aircrafts while at the same time conducting air sorties in East China Sea through Chinese Shaanxi Y-8 maritime aircrafts. This growing intensity of Chinese naval actions have compelled Japan and Vietnam to further develop their defence and strategic relations.

Due to the critical pandemic situation in Southeast Asia an emergency ASEAN session is being ruled out and there might be a few teleconferencing or web-conferencing dialogues which might take place to address the situation under Vietnam’s chairmanship. However, it might not get the attention of international media. It seems that Chinese moves are to intimidate Vietnam into not issuing a strict statement against China and also abide by the Chinese diktats during the ASEAN summit which in all likelihood might get delayed. However, Vietnam has made plans for a strong communique against the Chinese aggressive tactics in SCS and given the prerogative of the ASEAN Chair Vietnam might even name China as the aggressor and the major challenge to peace in the contested region. Chinese presence in Union banks, which is northeast of Johnson Reef have angered the Vietnamese, because more than three decades ago (1988) China had killed several Vietnamese soldiers to claim the Johnson Reef. Five People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) ships have been tracked closer to the waters and have been stationed there for quite some time. 

China is planning for some kind of military action and it is apparent through the mobilization of fishermen militia, coastguards and navy as well as maritime aircrafts. Coercion tactics against smaller claimants would help China to negotiate bilaterally leaving countries like Vietnam to come for negotiations. However, Vietnam has been clear on its position that all negotiations must be done at the multilateral level. The tactics that China is employing to claim the waters around SCS as its territory and proclaim complete fulfillment of its nine-dash dream. China has been giving economic inducements to Laos and Cambodia through its BRI projects and also building ports and infrastructure like airstrips and military base to be used by its military force at times of crisis.  China has also deployed a dozen unmanned submersibles in the Indian Ocean to monitor activities of India, Japan and the US ships and submarines.

It appears that China wants Vietnam to budge to its coercive measures and must not issue a statement condemning its actions in SCS, but strategic thinkers and scholars believe that the ASEAN might get united before the ASEAN summit and issue a strongly worded statement against activities in the SCS. Of course, the chair of the ASEAN this timeis Vietnam which would make sure that the ASEAN communique lists Chinese activities as a big time threat. It is hoped that this year ASEAN Chairman’s statement would be similar to that of 2019 or may even use stronger adjectives.

Pankaj Jha is faculty with Jindal School of International Affairs, O P Jindal Global University, Sonepat. He can be reached at pankajstrategic[at]gmail.com

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International Law

Civic and Ethnic Nationalism in a Populist World: Behind the Facade of Dichotomies

Rida Fatima

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The Rise of Anti-System Politics

The walk into the twenty-first century is marked by enormous structural shifts. The rise of neoliberal capitalism and the vulnerability created by financial crises has mobilized the politics of resentment. This process of asymmetrical development has created both the winners and the losers of modernity. The nuanced horizontal and vertical inequalities are giving rise to what Jonathan Hopkin calls the ‘Anti-system Politics’ or simply populism. This phenomenon is marked by the tussle of two homogenous groups; the people and the elite, which are at loggerheads with each other.

However, there is not any stream of anti-system politics; rather it falls at both ends of the political spectrum; left and right. It is marked by the Pink Tide in Latin America, rise of nationalist strongmen in the Central and Eastern European states, Hindu nationalism in India and the white ethnic nationalism in the Anglosphere. And the reason why the materialization of populism is distinctive in the spatial-temporal zones is because all the states have different welfare systems. They have distinct ways of filtering the effects of socio-cultural or economic changes. In doing so, they cushion some groups while exposing others to risks. In such a scenario, populism with its alternative action channel fills in the vacuum through its ‘moralist appeal’ to reclaim power of ‘the people’.

Both populism and nationalism being mass movements hold a focus towards the collective. And the ‘empty heart’ of populism with its ambiguous definition of the people, finds ‘elective affinities’ with nationalism. This profusion has further tangled the varying streams of anti-system politics. However, there are two similarities. First, all anti-system politics is about caching power. And secondly, it acts on myths of dichotomies. In furtherance, when the Kohnian civic ethnic distinction is applied to right-wing left-wing populism, the conclusions become mostly erroneous. It leads to an assumption that right-wing populism is nativist, exclusionary, and ethno-cultural by nature whereas left-wing populism is more inclusive and civic.But both civic and ethnic dimensions of nationalism are the part of populist politics. 

The right-wing populism of the BJP in India, Tea Party wing and Donald Trump of the Republican Party in the US, Le Pan in France and United Kingdom Independence Party in the UK are all marked by an appeal to right-wing populism. But in addition to that, these movements are not ethno-nationalist in the Kohnian sense rather they are ‘ethno-traditional nationalist’.And they instrumentalize the civic nationalist narrative to broaden their vote-base. This is precisely the justification of exclusion carried out in civic terms as the biological language is replaced by an ideological one.

Political Entrepreneurship: Instrumentalization and Mobilization

The political entrepreneurs: in both electoral populism and populist movements, act as an agency for strategically articulating the latent grievances. Thus, both the demand and supply side perspectives are crucial vantage points for a prudent analysis of the populist rise.The demand-side resentment is both addressed and tailored by the supply-side entrepreneurs through the perspective of nationalism.

In electoral populism, dissent is instrumentalized and it is mobilized through nationalistic appeals. Populism coupled with nationalism leads to the radical right-wing politics that it is witnessed in both Eastern and Western Europe, Latin America, and South Asia. Both the ideologies indicate a sense of social closure in one dimension or another. It is done by fixing what Bankim Chandra calls the ‘cultural attitudes’ which limit the sense of inclusivity and pluralism. But the question is why to appeal to the people on national, cultural, or ethnic grounds? Isiah Berlin suggested in the 1960s that nationalism is a core characteristic for the success of any political movement. And as both the ideologies are an antithesis of an open society, their profusion generates cognitive, social, and political rigidities.

The political entrepreneurs utilize these ‘banal’ ideas to introduce their own political agenda. It helps in building a foundation of the new system on the entrenched realities of the old system. A case study of various electorally successful right-wing populist parties like the Swiss People Party in Switzerland, French National Front of France, National Democratic Party of Germany and Pim Fortuyn List in Denmark indicate that populist leader or political entrepreneurs who make use of national ‘symbolic resources’ with a civic appeal perform better in their political system. And the civic nationalism in the West provides the platform to the radical-right populists who attain and maintain their share of power based on civic values without undermining their exclusionary ethno-traditional policies. Civic and ethnic nationalism are the means to attain the ends of populist politics. The political entrepreneurs tactically oscillate between both the civic and ethnic dimension of nationalism by persistently engendering a sense of threatened ‘bounded moral community’ at risk from the outsiders.

Akin to electoral populism, populist movements use grievances as a latent force. But that does not explain why the anti-immigration protests by PEGIDA were not instigated prior to 2014, or why the Occupy Wall Street movement came after the major shockwaves of the Great Recession were absorbed. To explain this there is a need to understand the role of political entrepreneurs as opportunity seekers who articulate the shared grievances when the time is ripe to fulfill their agenda backed with shared resentments.

Populism and Nationalism: A Bi-Dimensional Analysis

In all mass movements, ‘sociological necessities’ are invented and instrumentalized by the political elite. Nationalism and populism are no exceptions. A national myth is invented through a common heritage and mobilized through horizontal differences. Whereas the populist myths are brought back from ‘under the rug’ and mobilized through vertical antagonisms. And when combined, this the bi-dimensional dissidence defines the politics of the new age.

The resentment against those at the top and outsiders are mutually constitutive of the populist politics. The right-wing variant of this infusion criticizes multicultural politics, acceptance of refugees and the elite’s consideration of the indigenous population as xenophobic. This is the prime scene in the European and North American contexts as Hilary Clinton reportedly called Trump’s supporters as ‘basket of deplorables’. Such differences accentuate the need of people’s sovereignty over the state. And because the ethnic/cultural nationalism signifies ‘the people’ over the nation, it is easily juxtaposed with the populist discourse.

The ‘civic nationalism normalization’ strategy is used to disguise the exclusionary cultural politics behind the facade of legitimizing only the interests of the in-group. The Front National (FN) and the Alterative for Germany (AfD) both use a value-laden out-grouping of the Muslims based on their anti-Islamist agendas. And they instrumentalize civic nationalist discourse to legitimize their claims that Muslims are not an outgroup based on their ethnic descent rather on voluntarist reasons as they do not adhere to the democratic values. This is a supply of populist ideas through nationalist channels; covertly ethnic/cultural and overtly civic.

Manichean Myth to Chameleon Reality

Nationalism has its roots in the Greek city states and was crystallized as an idea of organization in the treaty of Westphalia in 1648. During the decolonization from 1945-1960, nationalism was at its pinnacle. However, since then it has been on a downward trajectory. But the populist utilization of the nationalist concepts has given it a new color. The entrenched resentments are being voiced not just by the minority ethnic/cultural groups but also the majority who feel threatened by the minority’s rising rights and political participation in what Rawls calls the post diversity era. The Muhajirs in Karachi are a classic example of a chameleon nationalism which has utilized both ethnic and civic strands to widen the vote base. Both the political movements, populism and nationalism are political projects which are in continual process of transition.

Despite modernization, the center-periphery distinction still pertains based on a deliberate exclusion of the peripheral identities to form a homogenous power circle at the center. And the grievances and opportunities created in this gap are mobilized and exacerbated by the political entrepreneurs. And the infusion of populism and nationalism are changed with the changing socio-political and economic contexts to cache the rising opportunities. The right-wing populism is not based on rigidities of objective identities but on the flexibility to catch the opportunity situations.

The ethnic groups too are not homogenous which indicates their divided politics to gain benefits. The myth of groupism is instrumental not factual. In this way they utilize both civic and ethnic nationalist appeals firstly, to cater to their in-group and secondly, to widen their prospects of political ins. In this way their politics becomes amorphous which is easily utilized by thin ideology like populism and the mix generates popular differences.Thus, the ethnic conflicts in the populist world are not the pure outcome of ethnic groups rather of ethnic organizations and populist political entrepreneurs.

Conclusion

Ethnic and cultural nationalism are not primarily nativist rather opportunistic. The populist world has provided nuanced avenues for the articulation of the ethno-cultural resentments which are exacerbated by the modern inequalities. However, the Kohnian civic-ethnic dichotomy is too rigid to explain the anomalous instrumentalist nature of the populist movements which build up on the combination of both ethnic and civic nationalism.

The analysis suggests that the populist world is a juggernaut of various thick ideologies which are used as an opportunistic context to propagate the agenda of the political entrepreneurs. Civic and ethnic nationalism were relevant before and instrumental now. They are both entrenched and tailored, natural, and transitive and contextual and opportunistic. Hence, the idea of nationalism is in a vicious cycle of constructive usage by the populist leaders and not merely a matter of some fixated identities.

Before the coronavirus in late 2019, there was a rise of a counter-populist wave on the fringes as observed through the leaderless protests where the middle class who once supported the populist movements was ‘revolting against the revolt’. However, the rise of the pandemic exacerbated a kind of nationalist populist response.Now the question is about who writes a better political bargain to satiate the rising middle class and that shall determine the course of future politics.

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International Law

Refugees In The Outbreak Of The Pandemic

Parismita Goswami

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Rohingya refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in Myanmar (file photo). IOM/Mohammed

The COVID-19 today is having an adverse impact on our lives although it has brought exceptional changes in climate and human behavior. The increasing number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the 21st century explains the intensified global scenario. The refugee crisis is the greatest humanitarian crisis the world has ever seen where most of them are internally displaced persons. Yet, they are humans with unique life experiences; they had dreams, children who are dwelling hopes of normal life, and a better tomorrow. The mothers are longing to return home, fathers yearning to work again, and an identity. Leaving behind their homes, being prosecuted from the country, and losing their loved ones; refugees had gone through the worst of time. Refugees are the worst sufferers in this 21st century. Around 80 million homeless people in the world most of them are from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia. The Syrian crisis reported being the greatest refugee crisis in the world. The United Nations also estimated the women and children to be the worst sufferers.

The refugees were tormented by years of poverty, poor health, and lack of basic infrastructures like education, food, health care, sanitation, social security, and etc. Humanitarian organizations have stretched beyond their capacity to help millions of refugees over the years. The WHO and UN Refugee Agency have signed new agreements to provide health services and benefits to the displaced and vulnerable population around the world. Among the 79.5 million forcibly displaced individuals lacks access to clean water or soap. Despite social and economic setbacks due to the pandemic, health is still the paramount factor affecting the poor and homeless. During the COVID-19 situation around the world food, medicine or sanitary products and even clean water have become inaccessible for many refugees. Social distancing has become a major concern in the refugee camps.

Challenges Upfront

The COVID -19  is severely affecting the education of the children in the refugee camps. In the refugee camps only 63% of refugees are enrolled in primary school and 24% in secondary education where most of the children are left out. The limit in pursuing education continues potentially in the refugee camps and its worsening due to the pandemic. There is a growing possibility of discrimination and xenophobia is affecting the process of socialization in their host country. Nevertheless, an unequal world with challenges to achieve education and skill training for self-development must be ceased.

In Yemen, more than 3 million people have been displaced and approximately 17 million require food. Yemen’s health facilities have either been destroyed or damaged in the conflict and with the unbridled transmission of COVID‑19 in Aden; Yemenis are living through the worst humanitarian crisis. Only a few health centers are operational in Yemen where the numbers of patients suffering from malnutrition, cholera, dengue fever, and injuries of war are very high.

In India almost 18,000 Rohingya refugees are taking shelter where thousands of them live in densely populated settlements in preposterous conditions; a third world country with the second-highest population in the world. India can hardly feed its population and especially it hosts a huge number of Refugees. Tibetan and Sri Lankan refugees have access to certain rights as assisted by the government, while the Rohingyas are still struggling for it. But, in Bangladesh, the WHO is working with governments to secure the health of nearly one million Rohingya refugees against the multiple threats of the pandemic and including natural disasters in the upcoming monsoon season.

The COVID-19 is increasing the needs and vulnerabilities of the Refugees. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is concerned about the collateral effects of the pandemic among the Refugees. According to the UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, due to the degrading socio-economic plight of the forcibly displaced people and poverty among them has made them a target to several traffickers that are immorally exploiting and profiteering from their culpability. The adolescent girls and children have become the victims of sexual exploitation, forced labor, slavery, and organ removal, forced recruitment into armed groups, forced marriages, or forced begging. The COVID-19-related impacts on restricted movements, closures, or availability of proper help, support services are put to constrain. The pandemic has limited the opportunity for the refugees, particularly women to seek legal support for sexual and gender-based violence.

On the World Day against Trafficking, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNHCR proposed for support in the prevention of trafficking and response efforts globally. The Governments and humanitarian actors together must ensure and assist the victims of trafficking

mostly among the displaced people where they are in immediate need of protection. A major initiative was taken by the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) to monitor the events and trend of COVID-19 among displaced populations in camps and non-camps settings for their safety.

Conclusion

 Resources are available in scanty, refugee camps and settlements are becoming overcrowded and many are being forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures during the winters. For those living in refugee camps or camp-like situations, they also face an increased risk of COVID-19. In refugee camps, it is difficult to practice public health measures like frequent hand washing or social distancing. Therefore, it is also the responsibility of the host government to provide aid and essentials to the refugees living in their country. But in many cases, the host governments don’t have enough financial capability but can arrange testing services in certain regions, regardless of whether an individual is a national or a refugee. Secondly, even though high-income countries are currently most affected, they need to assist low- and middle-income countries because those countries don’t have the means to deal with COVID-19. The outbreak of the pandemic in populous and poor countries will put the rest of the world at continued risk.

It’s true of the fact that the world was not prepared for a pandemic and COVID-19 does not respect any boundaries. But, the governments should not use pandemic as an excuse for applying repressive policies. Efforts should be made spread information in every camp that have limited source to reliable information about COVID-19 and measures of protection.

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International Law

Understanding the unlawfulness of the Law of Armed Conflict

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The contravention of rules outlined in the Law of Armed Conflict has created an environment of exploitative exceptions in the understanding, and applicability of human rights and security in theatres of modern warfare. As these exceptions pave way for the proliferation of national might in the name of national security, and combatant safety, the human suffering for non-combatants also witnesses a proportionally massive upsurge. The changing (mis)understanding of these regulations calls for a review on the accountability and necessity of jus in bello, and its weakened importance under the ambit of the law of armed conflict, and the greater International Humanitarian Law.

More than often, man-made conflicts have been responsible for the decimation of life and property around the globe. Even though human casualty stands divided between conventional and non-conventional threats in a modern world, the protraction of man-made conflict is mainly responsible for loosening up tides after tides of bloodshed for physical or territorial gains. However, with the advent of the prospect of domestic/international accountability, and a fool-proof system of checks and balances, mankind’s warfare is held by tighter strings of transparency and justifiability, adorned by rules and regulations. Nonetheless, it is very important to analyse and understand if its techniques of armed conflicts and subsequent regulation are stringed by laws of conduct to create a policy of accountability and fairness equally amongst participating parties or are riddled with discriminatory practices, apropos to an obscure understanding of who is sacred and who is profane. Rather unsettling, the horrors of war have time and again been governed with a rather small yet informative account of jus in bello (justice in war) or the law which governs how warfare is conducted, centred in the Law of Armed Conflict.

Jus in bello falls within the ambit of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), and as the semantics suggest, it indeed is purely humanitarian in its objective to limit human suffering in modern warfare through a strict set of pre-decided rules. Jus in bello is independent of the questions about the reason for war, or its basic rules, which in turn is explained by jus ad bellum(the law of waging war). Jus in bello, if we analyse through its literary content, consists of two parts. The first part explains principle determinants for a proper quantum of force required in armed warfare if limiting warfare is ever the case in humanitarian laws. The second part guides us through limitations and prohibitions in warfare if not complete cessation, which reminds of the old age tradition of centripetal discussions around international peace and security, albeit to no practical effect. In contrast to the humanitarian nature of the IHL, the first part of jus in bello aims to indulge the parties in conflict with a categorised, and diverse set of paradigms for use of violence. In a dubious exception, it can also encourage the parties to use toolkits of violence on adversaries, if it is justified with international/domestic military necessity, regardless of the means of interpretation, e.g. Turkey’s raid over Syria. Nonetheless, the rule of active distinction in IHL between combatants and non-combatants aims to impose limits on destruction and suffering in armed conflicts. However, the interpretation of the exceptional military necessity, proportionality, and distinction (MNPD) principles in IHL makes the death and injury of non-combatants casual, by emphasising on the miscued understanding that any unintentional attack with extreme unaccountability on non-combatants can, and will be classified as “collateral damage”. It ends up giving a sense of irresponsibility, justifiability, and immunity to the unprejudiced actions of the armed combatants since their actions are no longer a criminal or civil liability.

Fortunately, the second part of jus in bello adheres to the responsibilities in humanitarian law and imposes strict, absolute limits on certain instruments and modes of violence which can most certainly, if given a free hand, increase human casualty and suffering. These rules are extremely significant and cannot be exploited for potential military advantages. It is extremely altruistic to non-combatants. Nevertheless, a major limitation of the second part, as a general exception concerns the legality of warfare in the treatment and torture of prisoners of war by nation-states, regardless of the combatant and non-combatant status. One such example of that exploited limitation is the question on the authorization of torture, and indignation by US Personnel in the infamous Abu Ghraib prisons, which is backed by a textbook excuse that under US military commissions, information acquired through torture, generally inadmissible in domestic US civil/military courts will be considered as evidence for the sake of its internal security, and can ignore international laws and declarations. Fundamentally, even though this rule is in contrast with The Military Commission Act of 2006 section 6 (c)(1), the international organisations, honouring their commitment to the UN Charter Chapter 1, Article 2(7), limit their intervention in the matter. This is even though the US has ratified UNCAT Convention against Torture, and stands in clear violation of international decrees.

Moreover, the penumbra veiling the opacity of scores of military commissions, omissions and laws in this particular matter by different nation-states has threatened to unsettle various humanitarian provisions in jus in Bello, to evolve with the growing needs of armed conflict, primarily after the US’s war on terrorism. Major western nation-states like the UK and the US have called for a case by case approach into evidence gained from torture, taking a cue from Churchill’s “supreme emergency” dictum, henceforth, threatening to make torture a tool of plausible military necessity, which is unproportioned and discriminatory towards non-combatants.

Articulating the terminology change in IHL over due course of time, and an itemization of new crimes post-World War II, it is to be brought into notice the alarming plethora of provisions that have changed course in jus in bello. Regardless of the differentiation between combatants/prisoners of war, and non-combatants in Article 37(1) of Additional Protocol I and Article 44 of Protocol I of Geneva Convention, the lack of trust among state actors over doubtful logic and morality due to the inclusion of irregular fighters, non-state actors, and foreign fighters in modern warfare leads to unprecedented failure to comply with the second part prohibitions. This has resulted in the loss of a great majority of non-combatants in the conflicts of the 21st Century.

Furthermore, with the increasing reliance on tech-based warfare to minimise combatant casualty among state actors, WMDs have been the instrument of choice against the belligerent party. Unfortunately, the volatile firepower of such weapons, as well as its unprejudiced understanding between combatants, and civilians are judged under MNPD principles. Regardless of its clear military, and political danger over misuse, it is still accepted frivolously in the international community, and among state actors as a weapon of choice. The existence of nuclear weapons even after strengthened efforts towards non-proliferation, and its evolving doctrines of use among various nation-states, is an example of this effort to sham jus in bello, which is acting towards effective distinction in conflicts. The concept of the use of WMDs as a possible deterrent or a method of national self-defence is heavily prejudiced and debated in the international legal community, which openly admits that it cannot regulate the legality or illegality of such weapons by a nation-state in cases of self-defence, whatever the interpretation may be. Instead, they added this responsibility on MNPD principles, and un-verified claims of user assessment for self-defence, which technically does nothing to put a halt on the proliferation of WMD usage as an instrument of fear-mongering, e.g. the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

In the end, the lack of political will, and international compliance, marred by selfish national interests have worked more to change the law of armed conflicts, rather than strictly implementing it. The increasing reliance on the first part of jus in bello threatens to omit the second part from IHL, resulting in warfare and conflicts in modern times without a leash to save civilians from the unavoidable line of fire. It is high time that the international community takes a stand to promote and propagate the relevance of IHL to preserve the purity of conventions in place years ago, without pressure from major nation-states. These conventions find their relevance even now until mankind in its very nature of gaining more power decides to uproot it once and for all.

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