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The Formation of International Organizations and India: A Historical Study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 February 2010


As the clash of aspirations increased among European countries, a European ‘civil war’ started in 1914, which engulfed the whole world. With all the terrible destruction and loss of life, it was felt that an international organization must be established to avert war in future. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, the British government succeeded in gaining separate representation for its dominions, including India. This created a rather anomalous situation, since a dependency of a foreign power, a colony which could not control its internal affairs, was accepted as a sovereign state by an international treaty. Europe had hardly recovered from the First World War in the late 1920s when it drifted towards a second holocaust in 1939. India became a founding member of the United Nations in 1945, even though it was still under British rule, participating in the historic founding conference. But Indian national public opinion was neither very hopeful nor enthusiastic about the conference on the new international organization. Not only India, which was not even independent at that time, but Asian countries as such played a very small and insignificant role in the formulation of the UN Charter.

Copyright © Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law 2010

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1 R. Anand, ‘Family of “Civilized” States and Japan: A Story of Humiliation, Assimilation, Defiance and Confrontation’, in R. Anand (ed.), Studies in International Law and History (2004), 51.

2 L. Oppenheim, International Law (1905), 58.

3 Ibid., at 89.

4 Quoted in B. Roling, International Law in an Expanded World (1960), 29.

5 J. Lorimer, The Institutes of International Law: A Treatise of the Jural Relations of Separated Communities (1883), 161; see also ibid., Vol. II, 28, for a defence of war against China and Japan to compel them to open their ports for European trade.

6 Best, G., ‘Peace Conferences and the Century of Total War: The 1899 Hague Conference and What Came After’, (1999) 75 International Affairs 619CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 G. Tunkin, ‘International Law and Peace’, in International Law in a Changing World by Thirteen Experts (1963), 75.

8 India's position changed only after the First World War, when its tremendous contribution to the war effort led it to become a member of the British Imperial Conference in 1917, something earlier strongly opposed by the white British dominions. D. Verma, India and the League of Nations (1968), 1–9. It may also be mentioned that India had already become a member of such international organizations as the Universal Postal Union in 1876, the Conference of the International Union for the Publication of Tariff Customs in 1890, and the International Telegraph Conference in 1912. Ibid., at 10.

9 Lissitzyn, O., ‘Efforts to Codify or Restate the Law of Treaties’, (1962) 62 Columbia Law Review 1166, at 1183–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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12 G. Schwarzenberger, A Manual of International Law (1967), I, 61.

13 Ibid., at 70.

14 Poulose, T., ‘India as an Anomalous International Person (1919–1947)’, (1970) 44 British Yearbook of International Law 201, at 202Google Scholar.

15 Ibid., at 204.

16 L. Oppenheim, International Law, ed. H. Lauterpacht (1955), 209, n. 4.

17 Quoted in Verma, supra note 8, at 16.

18 D. Miller, The Drafting of the Covenant (1928), I, at 164–5.

19 Ibid., at 166.

20 Miller, supra note 18, II, at 261; see also Verma, supra note 8, at 1–44, for an exhaustive discussion of the whole controversy about India's membership of the League of Nations.

21 Miller, supra note 18, at 493; Verma supra note 8, at 20.

22 Verma, supra note 8, at 21.

23 Ibid., at 239–41.

24 Legislative Assembly Debates in India (1936), I, at 895–6; also quoted in Verma, supra note 8, at 25.

25 Quoted in Poulose, supra note 14, at 207; see also T. Poulose, Succession in International Law: A Study of India, Pakistan, Ceylon, and Burma (1974), 23 ff.

26 Quoted in Poulose, supra note 14, at 207.

27 US Congressional Record, Vol. 59, 2354, quoted in Verma, supra note 8, at 26–7.

28 US Congressional Record, Vol. 59, 3569.

29 Quoted in Poulose, supra note 14, at 207.

30 L. Sundram, India in World Politics (1944), 27.

31 A. Keith, Constitutional History of India, 1600–1935 (1936), 473.

32 P. Noel-Baker, The Present Judicial Status of the British Dominions in International Law (1929), 13–14.

33 See also Verma, supra note 8, at 27–9, for more discussion on India's membership and reaction in the US Senate.

34 A. Keith, Sovereignty of the British Dominion (1929), 327, quoted in Verma, supra note 8, at 29.

35 W. E. Hall, A Treatise on International Law (1924), 35

36 L. Oppenheim, International Law, A Treatise (1928), I, 195.

37 For numerous other conferences India attended and treaties that it signed, see Verma, supra note 8, at 33–6.

38 Quoted in ibid., at 36.

39 A. Keith, A Constitutional History of India (1933), 468.

40 Quoted in Verma, supra note 8, at 39.

41 Bal Gangadhar Tilak even wrote a letter to Georges Clemenceau, the president of the Peace Conference, outlining India's prospective role as a leading Asian power in post-war world affairs. Ibid., at 270.

42 India and the United Nations: Report of a Study Group Set up by the Indian Council of World Affairs, Prepared for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1957), 4.

43 Several Indian leaders quoted in Verma, supra note 8, at 270 ff.

44 India and the United Nations, supra note 42, at 4.

45 J. Nehru, Glimpses of World History (1942), 682; see also India and the United Nations, supra note 42, at 5.

46 Anandabazar Patrika (Calcutta), 23 June 1921, also quoted in India and the United Nations, supra note 42, at 7.

47 Anandabazar Patrika (Calcutta), quoted in India and the United Nations, supra note 42, at 8.

48 Modern Review (1927), XLI, 2, at 255.

49 Indian Delegation Report, 1935, Gazette of India, 21 March 1936, at 225; see also India and the United Nations, supra note 42, at 10–11.

50 E. Carr, International Relations between the Two World Wars (1919–1939) (1950), 254.

51 Verma, supra note 8, at 277–8.

52 J. Nehru, The Discovery of India (1946), 429.

53 Ibid., at 430–2.

54 For details of the participation of Indian troops see R. Majumdar, H. Raychaudhuri, and K. Datta, An Advanced History of India (1999), 949 ff.

55 Nehru, supra note 52, at 457.

56 Ibid., at 476–7.

57 See L. Goodrich and E. Hambro, Charter of the United Nations: Commentary and Documents (1946), 306.

58 Ibid., at 305.

59 Ibid., at 307.

60 Ibid., at 308 ff.

61 India and the United Nations, supra note 42, at 22–3; see also Rajan, M., ‘India and the Making of the UN Charter’, (1973) 12 International Studies 430, at 431–2CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

62 India and the United Nations, supra note 42, at 24.

63 It was not easy for the British government to select members of the Indian delegation because of serious criticism coming from Indian national leaders. See another article by Professor M. S. Rajan, ‘India and the Making of the UN Charter – II (from British Sources)’, (1999) 36 International Studies 3. The articles complement each other.

64 Hindustan Times, 7 March 1945.

65 9 March 1945, quoted in Rajan, supra note 63, at 434.

66 T. Bahadur Sapru, H. Kunzru, Right Hon. V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, C. Rajagopalachari, quoted in ibid.

67 The Hindu, 13 April 1945, quoted in Rajan, supra note 63, at 435.

68 One year later she led the Indian delegation to the UN General Assembly, and was elected president of the General Assembly's eighth session in 1953. Ibid.

69 British Commonwealth Meeting, 4 April 1945, quoted in ibid., at 437.

70 Quoted in Rajan, supra note 61, at 438–9.

71 Quoted in ibid., at 438–9.

72 Quoted in ibid., at 140.

73 Ibid., at 441.

74 Report of the Conference of the United Nations in San Francisco, 3 August 1945, quoted in ibid., at 443–5.

75 Quoted in Rajan, supra note 61, at 449; see also ibid., at 40.

76 A. Lall, ‘The Asian Nations and the United Nations’, in N. Padelford and L. Goodrich (eds.), The United Nations in the Balance (1965), 365.

77 Rajan, supra note 63, at 455. Professor Rajan does not agree with Arthur Lall that India's role in the UNCIO ‘was disappointingly and disproportionately small’.

78 The Hindu, 27 June 1945; also quoted in ibid., at 456.