Saturday, November 18, 2006

U.S. - India Nuclear Deal Ratified by the U.S. Senate

The United States Senate overwhelmingly ratified (85-12) the U.S. - India Civil Nuclear Cooperation deal. Some "killer amendments", including one which put a cap on India's fissile material production and one which mandated severance of military ties with Iran were rejected. India saw these clauses as infringing on their nuclear autonomy and hence if these "killer" clauses were passed then it would imply the demise of the Nuclear deal. However the deal is not out of the woods yet, as ratification by Congress via joint resolution will have to be sought once the agreement is signed by the two countries. The nuclear cooperation deal is being approved in the form of a congressional-executive agreement rather than a treaty. Therefore Congress approval has to be sought twice. This bill authorizes the President to waive the U.S. law restrictions under the Atomic Energy Act (which mandates the implementation of the International Atomic Energy Agency's safeguards regime) in sharing nuclear power with India. Therefore the restrictions imposed on nations sharing nuclear technology with the U.S., which usually meant that these deals were limited to nations under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty system, will not be applicable to India specifically. Here's The Hindu on the nuclear deal.

Webcast of U.S. State Department Legal Advisor's Lecture at Duke

Here's a video of a lecture of Mr. John Bellinger, a legal advisor for the Department of State, United States of America who is speaking at the inauguration of the Center for International & Comparative Law at the Duke University School of Law. He delivers a lecture on "Transatlantic Approaches to International Law & Institutions". Mr. Bellinger attempts at justifying the the Bush Administration's stand on International law as being non-antagonistic. He discusses "contentious and misunderstood" issues of international law mainly those of counter-terrorism laws & policies on matters especially the detention, questioning & transfer of members of the Al Qaeda & the Taliban.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Seeds of the Society for Global Democracy

Globalisation and democratization have been persistent themes post World War II. Ironically, democratization within the global order has rarely been sought in this era of global unity. In fact an increased estrangement with globalisation is strongly felt in light of the hierarchies and divisions, which naturally accompany such efforts. When one speaks of equality, be it at any level, it is inevitably tinged with a level of cynicism, for some are always more equal than others. How then do we enshrine ‘democracy’ and ‘equality’ as hallowed legal precepts? The ‘global’ conscience condemns nations governed by undemocratic governments, but who may condemn the ‘global’ conscience for failing its own standards? Is law, but a tool for the powerful to express and enforce their views? Or is the rule of law above the dictates of such power equations? It is to examine such debates that we embark on this venture.
Scholars acknowledge the division of nations on lines of power, with the powerful North commandeering the world order. The United Nations and its veto-vested Security Council are the symbols of global order. However can, or has global order assured global democracy? The invasion of Iraq, the bombings in Lebanon would provide us answers in the negative. Is the global order today positioned to enrich a select few states? Is empowerment of the less powerful nations an impossibility within this framework? Further ought empowerment and equality be demanded as a right or accepted as a token of charity? Is the entire gamut of ‘law’ phrased as ‘international law’ a system driven by brute force and coercion? Is legality propelled or legitimized by the power balance?
The demand for global democracy to increase participation of the world’s people in the global institutions that shape the course of millions of lives has oft been demanded. Further many have raised the prospect of a world parliament and a system of equality sans preferential powers like vetoes. Is such a desire for decentralisation of power a viable, can we actually make the shift from a world that is unipolar or bipolar at best, to one based on the spirit of democracy. Is democratization of global governance actually possible? Are such thoughts politically viable or mere flights into fantasy?
We, the participants of a democracy labeled as a part of the ‘South’ need to ask such questions and demand answers. As students of law, our search for answers becomes even more relevant. Is a global democracy a feasible alternative to the present international system, which is undoubtedly a ‘primitive system’ bereft of legality or morality – much like Hobbes’ conception of the state of nature – nasty and brutish. It is to generate discourse on the true meaning of equality, democracy and legality that we seek to create a platform. Beyond the textual definitions of these legal precepts, well known to all is a reality unknown to most. It is reality that fills colour into legalisms, but only when viewed in perspective. We seek to achieve such a critical perspective and view the law and reality in a manner, which is contextually relevant. We further seek not to limit ourselves to criticism but also seek alternatives and proposals so that democracy and global democracy do not remain relegated as unachievable ideals.
Our Patron’s Vision for the Society
Our Patron, the Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor Professor (Dr.) B.S. Chimni has envisioned the society as the seat for initiating this global phenomenon and movement, which is global democracy. In this regard what he desires is not a top-down approach but rather the insurgence of awareness from the student fraternity itself, which would thence provide impetus to this growing movement. Scholars around the world are engaged in this movement, and our University is ideally positioned to contribute to this movement. Thus, it is the desire of our Patron, that this Society’s scope be expansive and instrumental in creating dialogue amongst students, rather than merely restricted to organization.
Undoubtedly, organization of national and international colloquiums, debates, essay writing competitions, publication of a journal etc. shall be an integral part of our endeavour. However the primary objective of all these ventures is to provide the impetus for this global movement amongst the students and thus, this society is envisioned as an academic society with purpose of raising consciousness regarding the concept of global democracy, revisiting notions of equality and democracy with special emphasis on the Global South.