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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

tiny Marshall islands take India to International Court of Justice

In Oct 2011, the Govt. declared an area covering nearly 2,000,000 square kilometres (772,000 sq mi) of ocean shall be reserved as a shark sanctuary, making it  the world's largest shark sanctuary.   The tiny Nation has a long history – in the recent pages, months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kwajalein Atoll was the administrative center of the Japanese 6th Fleet Forces Service, whose task was the defense of these islands.  In World War II, the United States, invaded and occupied the islands in 1944, destroying or isolating the Japanese garrisons.  The battle here caused irreparable damage, especially on Japanese bases. During the American bombing, the islands' population suffered from lack of food and various injuries.

In 1979, the Government here was officially established and the country became self-governing.In 1986, the Compact of Free Association with the United States entered into force, granting the Republic its sovereignty. The Compact provided for aid and U.S. defense of the islands in exchange for continued U.S. military use of the missile testing range at Kwajalein Atoll.

It is the ‘Marshall Islands’- located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean; geographically, part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country's population is spread out over 24 coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets. The most populous atoll is Majuro, which also acts as the capital.Micronesian colonists gradually settled the Marshall Islands  from earlier years and the European powers recognized the islands as part of the Spanish East Indies in 1874. However, Spain sold the islands to the German Empire in 1884. In World War I, Japan occupied the Marshall Islands, which in 1919 the League of Nations combined with other former German territories to form the South Pacific Mandate. In World War II, the United States conquered the islands in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign.

Politically, the Marshall Islands is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the US providing defence, subsidies, and access to U.S. based agencies such as the FCC and the USPS. Health officials in the Marshall Islands are reporting a surge in chikungunya cases with the latest tally at more than 800 cases since February 2015. Of these, 80 percent of cases were from the Capital, Majuro. This is the first known outbreak of Chikungunya in the Marshall Islands and follows on the heels of a major outbreak in Kiribati earlier this year.  An effort was launched  spraying mosquito breeding areas around Majuro Atoll.

We are reading about this island as there is news of the tiny island taking our Nation to the Court.  Times of India reports that an year ago, the tiny island republic in the Pacific Ocean, made an impassioned plea to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking initiation of proceedings against India for not pursuing nuclear disarmament, but India is yet to file response to it.  The tiny Nation suffered miserably during World War II and, later, the US used some of its islands as the testing site for its nuclear weaponry , which it nick named Pacific Proving Grounds.

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) came into force 45 years ago and the ICJ in its advisory opinion on July 8, 1996 had said: “There exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.“

Marshall Islands, which received over $700 million in compensation from the US in the last century for the adverse effects of nuclear weapons testing, strongly feels that the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan could pose a huge danger to world peace, both being NPT non-signatories.  The report states that last  month, the ICJ accepted India's request and gave it time till September 16 to file its reply to Marshall Is lands' application. The court had on June 16 last year given India time till December 16, 2014. The time was again extended till June 16 and now to September 16.

The island republic's grievance is that “India continues to breach its obligations under customary international law, including specifically its obligation to pursue in good faith negotiations to cease the nuclear arms race at an early date, as well as to pursue in good faith negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control“.

Sounds strange that they are targetting India when there are bigger players in the field of nuclear armament – some who have used and some who threaten and some who have the capabilities.  The nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) proclaims that  its objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. A total of 190 parties have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States.Four UN member states have never signed the treatyare : India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

25th June 2015.

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