India has shot down rumours that it was in talks with the UK for Judge Dalveer Bhandari to withdraw in favour of the British candidate, Christopher Greenwood, in the deadlocked election to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Dismissing the rumours meant to undermine Bhandari's support in the General Assembly, India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said: "We understand that some impression is being sought to be created that India and the UK are in talks and Judge Bhandari may withdraw, as he may not be allowed to win.
"We are here; we intend to stay the course until the will of the majority prevails," Akbaruddin declared at a reception for Bhandari attended by representatives of over 160 countries at the United Nations on Thursday.
A candidate has to win an absolute majority in both the General Assembly and the Security Council, which neither of the two sitting judges have.
Bhandari has nearly a two-thirds majority with 121 votes in the 193-member Assembly, while Greenwood has a slender majority of nine in the 15-member Council.
As the runoff between Bhandari and Greenwood reached the "tipping point" with another round of election scheduled for November 20, Akbaruddin also strongly opposed using a joint conference made up of three representatives each from the Assembly and the Council to break the deadlock saying that it was against the principles of democracy.
The ICJ statutes provide for the joint conference to pick a candidate if the stalemate continues after the third election meeting of the Council and the Assembly.
Calling the joint conference a "can of worms", Akbaruddin said the UN cannot go back to a "toolkit" of the past that has never been used in its history.
As the lobbying has intensified, the campaign has taken an ugly turn with Greenwood's supporters trying to break Bhandari's growing support in the Assembly by carrying out a stealth campaign to make it appear that India was giving up, according to diplomats.
Rumours were floated that Bhandari may withdraw or that India would agree to a joint conference, making the Assembly voting seem futile, the diplomats said.
So far 11 rounds of balloting have been held over two days in the Assembly and 10 in the Council.
Four others were elected on the first day on November 9, in the first four rounds with majorities in both chambers. After that seven rounds of runoff balloting between Bhandari and Greenwood were held in the Assembly and six in the Council without being able to break the deadlock.
"This election is getting prolonged only because the clear support of 121 is being equated to the support of nine," Akbaruddin said.
General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak had a round of meetings on Friday afternoon with Security Council President Sebastiano Cardi and officials of the UN legal and General Assembly departments in preparation for the balloting on November 20, his spokesperson Brenden Varma said.
"We also understand that there is talk of a joint conference mechanism to break the deadlock.
"Let me tell you right now upfront that not one person has approached me with this proposal, certainly not the representative of the country whose candidate is being faced," Akbaruddin said.
Akbaruddin did acknowledge meeting British diplomats. "Yes, we have talked. Sure, we are diplomats, what else do we do? We talked, but never once was such a proposal made."
"The precedent is clear... As is expected in the 21st century, the candidate who enjoys overwhelming support of the General Assembly membership can be the only legitimate candidate to go through."
He cited the outcome of the ICJ elections in 2011 and 2014 when the candidate who won the Assembly majority prevailed.
Susana Ruiz Cerutti of Argentina won in the Council and Patrick Lipton Robinson of Jamaica in the Assembly in the 2014 ICJ election. After 12 rounds of voting, Cerutti withdrew.
In 2011, Julia Sebutinde of Uganda had a majority in the Assembly and Abdul Koroma of Sierra Leone in the Council. When the deadlock continued after the 10th round of balloting in the Council and 11th in the Assembly, the African Union prevailed on Sierra Leone to back off.
It has to be decided on the floor of the house... We are a democratic country we will abide by democratic verdict. We urge all others do too," Akbaruddin added.
(Arul Louis can be reached at email@example.com)