Shaming China on a Global Forum
- India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar said that the situation at the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) has arisen due to the “disregard” by China of “written agreements”. But what China has been doing at the LAC is not a mere “disregard”.
- It is a blatant violation of international law as part of a larger game of Chinese expansionism
- The India-China LAC engagement is guided by a series of bilateral agreements that the two sides have signed over the years.
- A central tenet of all these agreements is the complete proscription on the threat or use of force.
- For instance, a 1993 agreement between India and China provides that neither side shall use or threaten to use force against the other by any means.
- It further enunciates that the India-China boundary question shall be resolved through peaceful and friendly consultations.
- Likewise, Article I of the 1996 agreement on confidence-building measures between the two sides prohibits the use of military capability against the other side.
- The prohibition on the use of force is also enshrined in Article I and Article VIII of the 2005 and 2013 agreements, respectively.
- States being forbidden from using force in international relations is a cardinal rule of international law codified in Article 2(4) of the United Nations (UN) Charter.
- The UN Charter recognises two exceptions to this rule — self-defence under Article 51 and UN Security Council authorisation under Chapter VII of the Charter.
- The June 15, 2020 military scuffle between India and China in Galwan, that led to the deaths of 20 Indian soldiers, was a clear case of China using military force against India.
- This Chinese aggression not only violates all the bilateral treaties between India-China but also the UN Charter.
What India should do?
- New Delhi should develop its strategy of ethical lawfare by mainstreaming international law lexicon into its diplomatic toolkit to respond to Beijing’s challenge.
- Rather than pussyfooting around, India should make a strong legal case by painstakingly marshalling all the international treaties, including the UN Charter and customary international law, at every forum to call out China’s illegal actions.
- An unequivocal proclamation should be made at all international platforms that India reserves the right to act in self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter to counter any Chinese misadventure.
- Enacting a national security law aimed at imposing restrictions or sanctions of various kinds (trade, economic, military) on those countries with whom India shares a land border can be an option.
- The purpose of India’s lawfare should be to ably demonstrate to the world that China’s international law violations pose a threat to the entire international community — not just India.