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Foreign Secretary’s Remarks at the Third Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)-India Conference

November 21, 2020

Hon'ble Justice SA Bobde, the Chief Justice of India,
Hon’ble Justice Indu Malhotra,
Justice Dalveer Bhandari, Judge, International Court of Justice,
His Excellency Hugo Siblesz, Secretary General, Permanent Court of Arbitration,
Shri Fali Nariman, Senior Advocate and Chairperson of the PCA-India Conference Committee,
Ambassador of India to the Netherlands, Shri Venu Rajamony,
Members of the PCA-India Committee,

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am honoured to participate today at the inaugural of the third Permanent Court of Arbitration-India Conference.

2. I am also heartened that so many distinguished members from the Indian and global legal fraternity have taken time to participate in this third edition of the PCA Conference. Your august presence is testament to the significance of today’s event and the deep partnership India and the Indian legal fraternity have with the PCA.

3. As a member of the international community, India has remained steadfast in ensuring the rule of law, and has had a long history of utilising arbitration and other such methods for amicable settlement of international disputes.

4. Institutions such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration have assisted us in this respect, and have played a pivotal role in ensuring that peace among nations is maintained, through a civilised and principled settlement of disputes.

5. Since its establishment, the PCA has handled many politically significant and interesting cases. It has become a premier institution and first choice for the resolution of international disputes involving States, State entities, Inter-Governmental Organizations as well as private entities. The alternative dispute resolution services that the PCA provides and the international issues that it handles are wide-ranging. In fact, there is much more that the PCA can offer by way of its expertise and experience built over so many years.

6. The PCA is over 121 years old and is the oldest arbitral institution. India became a member of the PCA in 1950. Though the Republic of India is relatively younger than the PCA, arbitration legislation in India can be traced back to over a century and a quarter prior to the existence of the PCA; where the legislation for arbitration existed through the Bengal Regulation Act of 1772. However, the tradition of settlement of disputes through alternative dispute settlement mechanisms goes back even further and is discussed in India’s ancient texts and scriptures, where differences were settled by adjudicators chosen by parties to the dispute.

7. As a strong proponent of a peaceful and rules-based international legal order, it is no surprise that India supports the PCA and its mandate to resolve international disputes. The upholding of international law is central to our diplomacy and in fact our world view.

8. On numerous occasions, India itself has availed and continues to avail the services of the PCA and can perhaps be termed as one of the largest users of the PCA’s services. India has sought to resolve certain disputes with its neighbours through arbitration, conciliation and expert determination, has resolved international disputes with States, and has availed of the services of the PCA in this regard. Examples include the Kishenganga Arbitration with Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty; the Maritime Boundary delimitation with Bangladesh; and the Italian Marines Case.

9. India has also used the services of the PCA in administering cases under Investment Treaties. The new model of our Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) has the Secretary General of the PCA as the appointing authority (for arbitrations under the BIT), and the PCA as the preferred institution for arbitration.

10. The trust and confidence that States worldwide have reposed in the PCA was the driving factor for India entering into a Host Country Agreement with the PCA in 2008. Through this Host Country Agreement, India and the PCA have established a legal framework under which future PCA-administered proceedings can be conducted in India. Dispute resolution proceedings may be administered by the PCA, whether or not they are conducted pursuant to the 1899 or 1907 Conventions for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, or any of the PCA’s optional rules of procedure, thus guaranteeing to the parties in dispute the maximum degree of procedural autonomy.

11. The cooperation between the PCA and India is important to ensure that adjudicators, PCA staff, and participants in proceedings (such as counsel, agents, and witnesses) are able to perform their functions effectively. The Host Country Agreement between India and the PCA entered into in September 2008 allows parties to a dispute – both within India and in the neighbourhood – to take full advantage of the flexibility and efficiency of PCA administered proceedings in the territory of India. We look to further build upon this and to enhance India’s presence as a preferred location for international arbitration.

12. With its adherence to rule of law, its jurisprudential traditions and its legal talent pool, India is well poised to serve the growing demand for legal services in this part of the world. We have a well-established and trusted legal system that delivers high quality jurisprudence and is appreciated internationally for its institutional independence and stability. We have a deep resource of skilled and talented legal practitioners and other facilities that are conducive for the development of India as a safe global hub for arbitration.

13. India is committed to supporting the dispute resolution sector and encouraging the development of the sub-continent as an important global hub for international arbitration. We have proactively reviewed and modernised our arbitration legislation reflecting international best practises to make sure that our laws stay up-to-date, and support the needs of users of arbitration. This is part of the process of making our systems more compatible with international best practices, in tune with the needs of a globalising Indian economy.

14. In this regard, we would like to further develop our relationship with the PCA. This will enable India to be better placed in hosting arbitration proceedings held under the auspices of the PCA. I am confident that this collaboration between India and PCA will be extremely successful, and I look forward to a productive and fruitful relationship.

15. With these words, I wish this Conference all success. A meeting of such eminent legal minds will no doubt help in developing solutions to contemporary problems in State-State arbitration, investor-State arbitration and contractual arbitration.

16. I wish you the very best in the deliberations to follow in the coming sessions of the Conference.

New Delhi
November 21, 2020


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