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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : India has lost its way in the use of international law

 Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: Current events of international importance, International laws, Bandung conference etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global grouping involving India, International laws and their implications on India etc



  • Despite international law being ruler’s law and its euro-centric character, India did not join it at the time of its independence.




India and International Law:

  • The Indian constitution and international law have links dating back to the pre-independence days when India was a separate member of the league of nations even during the times of British rule.
  • The Indian Constitution which is greatly influenced by the values imbibed in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR)(international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly).


Article 51: According to the provisions in this Article, the state has the responsibility to promote international peace and security in the nation and maintain just and honorable relations with other nations.


Steps taken by India at the time of Independence:

  • Article 51: India’s Constitution makers saw the value of international law and thus provided in Article 51 that the state shall foster respect for international law.
  • Asian-African Conference at Bandung in 1955: India asserted its sovereignty and championed the principle of self-determination in international law.


Recent Steps:

  • Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT): India has played an active role in shaping international law on terrorism by proposing a CCIT.
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA): A bold attempt to influence international environmental law.



  • National interests internationally: India’s engagement with international law has been marginal, especially in articulating its national interests internationally.
  • International laws embedded in language: Unlike their western counterparts who justify the conduct of international relations by embedding it in the language of international law to gain legitimacy for their actions.
    • India’s generalist diplomats and policy-makers rarely employ the international law vocabulary extensively.
  • Pakistan Case: Indian statement did not once mention ‘international law’, forget citing Pakistan’s specific breaches of the treaty and customary international law.
  • WTO: India’s failure to legally challenge Pakistan’s denial of most favoured nation status to India at the World Trade Organization.


Institutional bottlenecks:

  • Generalist diplomats: The foreign service is heavily populated by generalist diplomats who are wedded to the theories of international relations.
  • Legal and treaties (L&T) division: The only section in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) that looks at international law.
    • But this division is grossly understaffed.
  • Quality of talent: L&T divisions, quality of lawyers as there are far greater incentives for an international lawyer to join the government as a generalist diplomat than as a technocrat.


Academic obstructions:

  • Few International law professors: The presence of a few outstanding international law professors, our universities have not invested much in the development of the discipline.
  • Funding: The Government has failed to fund research in international law
  • Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA): The MEA funds research centers such as the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).
    • But the ICWA focuses largely on the study of international relations, not international law.
  • Indian Journal of International Law (IJIL): It is nowhere close to the top international law journals in the world despite being over 60 years old.



Way Forward

  • Department of international law: To overcome the fragmentation-related problems, a parliamentary committee report in 2016 recommended the creation of a ‘department of international law’ under the Law Ministry.
  • Parliamentary committee in 2021: Realizing India’s abysmal capacity in international law, the report of the parliamentary committee in 2021 recommended that the MEA establish chairs for research in international law in universities.
  • International practices: China has poured in massive resources to build the capacity of its universities in international law, which has benefited the Chinese government as well.
    • India can look forward to it.
  • Investing in International law: India’s ambition of punching above its weight in international affairs cannot be accomplished without its investing in international law.



  1. The long sustained image of India as a leader of the oppressed and marginalized nations has disappeared on account of its new found role in the emerging global order.’ Elaborate(UPSC 2019)

(200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)