International Rules

It is a cardinal truth that we are surely living in an era of grave crisis. Ever since the emergence of man on earth, uncountable wars have been fought for either survival or for occupation and, thus, the world has proceeded through horrible blood-baths towards civilization. But the crisis has never been as alarming as it is today. Two world wars have shown how dangerously science and technology have been mixed up with the politics of self-interest, ideological conflicts and nationalistic fanaticism.

Even after the large-scale devastation of the last World War, the race of armament continues and some small states are now equipped with nuclear power. Nation states have become power magazines – a local war may now bring about a diabolical catastrophe and, if it escalates, it can ruin the entire humanity within some minutes. For this reason, Laski has aptly remarked, “Modern warfare is literally a form of suicide” (Laski 227). In fact, we have now to choose between two alternatives – co-existence or co-destruction.

If we are conscious beings, we cannot, willingly choose the best alternative to suicide and, therefore, it is urgently necessary to find out the way of survival. As Toynbee has put it, “We may be on the verge of destroying all life of this planet and make it permanently uninhabitable” Thus, we may be on the verge of a state of lasting peace and social justice. But we do know that we would much rather turn down to history as the pioneers of a golden age than to go down in oblivion as the destroyers of life on earth. Herein lies the need of an international machinery for the preservation of peace and security.

In fact, the hour has struck for a halt, a moment of recollection, of reflection, almost of prayer, a moment to think anew of our common origin and our history. What is more important is not the geographical accident of separate states, but the moral and practical fact of the world – interdependence and the spiritual unity of man. Thus, we must live under an international order – because if we cannot end war and hatred, it would ultimately end us. The problem which hinges on us in that the statehood implies the doctrine of ‘sovereignty’.

It means, internally, that the state has the supreme authority over the people and institutions living under it. But, its external aspect has a longer potential – it gives each state the unrestrained opportunity to choose its foreign policy which implies, inter alia, the right to go to war. But if this right remains uncontrolled, the world can never find peace and security. So, by a restraint to the concept of sovereignty, an international order must be established and only such global governance can bring about safety and tranquility in the world.

Russell, however, opines that only an international government may serve this purpose. In his viewpoint, “This is the only possible road to peace” (Russell 189). Perhaps this is too optimistic an idea. But there can be no doubt that only a sort of international order as such can save us from the probable disaster. This dream of an international government may not come true and, in that case, the existing states may be allowed to operate freely – but some international rules or laws must regulate their external behavior.

The International Rule Of course, the concept of international rules has a long history. In the year 1582, Ayale pleaded for the acceptance of some inter-state rules. Then Gentiles advocated for such rules rules of nations in 1598. Suarez, a Spanish Jurist, too pleaded for such rules in 1612. But the most praiseworthy service in this matter has been rendered by Hugo Grotius, a jurist of Holland, who published his famous work ‘De Jure Bell Ac Paces’ in 1625.

However, Bentham was the pioneer to propose for the codification of such rules. Then Bluntschli, the noted Swiss jurist, in 1860, attempted to codify them. The Brussels Declaration of 1874 drafted a body of 60 Articles. The First Hague Conference of 1899 and the second conference in 1907 codified some international rules for the acceptance of all states. After the First World War, the League of Nations was formed which took up this task; but its demise in the year 1939 indicated a setback in that process.

It should also be borne in mind that the refusal of the United States to join the League for some constitutional reasons had also minimized its significance. However, after the Second World War, the need of an international order was felt with a renewed pragmatism and, thus, the UN was established in order to ‘save the succeeding generations from the scourge of war’. So, in order to guarantee peace and security, it took upon itself the task of codifying the international rules. It also appointed a committee for the Progressive Development of International Law on December 11, 1946.

An International Law Commission was then set up in the year 1949. Thus, it may be said that such rules have emanated from different sources – peace-treaties, international conferences and international organizations. At present, however, the main task of formulating such has befallen on the General Assembly of the United Nations. As the legislature of the UN, one of its most ¬¬important functions is to frame some rules for the member-states. This function is ‘quasi legislative’ (Nicholas 105).

Beside setting up of an International Law Commission, it accepted the principles of the Nuremberg Trial and issued some declarations such as Convention on Genocide (1948), the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951), Essentials of Peace (1949), Peaceful Co-existence (1957) etc. Effectiveness of the Rules But, the “Assembly’s work in this field has yet not been an impressive one” (Nicholas 6). The reasons are not hard to seek. In fact, the years since 1945 have not been propitious for the development of international rules and universal brotherhood.

International politics was soon gripped by East-West tension and the resultant ‘cold war’. In the fear of another Armageddon, the major powers resorted to extensive war-preparations, expansion of territory or influence-zones by defying all international rules and the norms of the United Nations. Some examples would suffice to justify the point. The UN passed the Declaration of co-existence. But both the capitalist and the communist blocs often defied it for eliminating the other. Art 2 (3) enjoins that ‘all members shall settle their disputes by peaceful means.

Yet China annexed Tibet in 1950 and invaded India in the year 1962. Britain, France and Israel united bombed in Egypt in 1956 during the Suez Canal debacle. In recent years, Soviet Russia interfered in Afghanistan, the United States fought in Vietnam, Iraq annexed Kuwait, and the Arab states attacked Israel on two occasions. Then, Art 2 (5) asks the member-states to provide all assistance to the UN in any of its action taken against a recalcitrant state. But, in 1950, when the UN took actions against the North Korea, only fifteen nations obeyed the call of Security Council and send troops for the UN army.

The main brunt of responsibility was borne by the United States. As Nicholas observes, “America’s resolve, America’s dollars, America’s men were ninety per cent of the Korean war-effort” (Nicholas 54). But, it is true that, “Since the Korean fighting ended, there has been a retreat from the concept of collective security” (Eichelberger 24). One of its major reasons is the large-scale and disproportionate casualties of America which bitterly felt that most of the nations were not serious in obeying the international rules.

In fact, it was an action commanded by the United States and most of the member-states remained as indifferent on-lookers (Goodspeed 204). These states, by repudiating the United Nations’ rule, actually denied guaranteeing the principle of collective security (MacIver 89). Moreover, while the United Nations is a non-sovereign entity, its members are sovereign. Art 2 (1) of the United Nations Charter has recognized their superior status. This is why it cannot enforce its rules by any loyal fiat. Above all, the peace-keeping system came to a standstill due to the abuse of the Veto Power by the Big Powers.

During the first 15 years, Soviet Russia exercised it on 56 occasions and, others, similarly, followed it in their own interests. In this way also, the UN has failed to bring the international system within its control. But such defiance of law indicates the very necessity of the law. If, in this present world, some international rules and a regulatory system fail to exist, a total annihilation of human civilization would be in sight. This civilization is the noble creation of many centuries and, hence, it cannot be allowed to ruin by a momentary mistake of a few statesman or by the bellicosity of some war-mongers.

Submission to some international rules and obedience to humanitarian ideals may now save the world from a total disaster – “Co-operation and not competition is the only way out” (Lipson 404). We have, by any means, got to live peacefully and, hence, it would require an international mind. As a result of the Renaissance and Reformation movements, the ideals of sovereignty and nationalism gain ground. But gradually, sovereignty has meant right to seek peace and to wage war and nationalism, in its turn, has been perverted as chauvinism.

In these circumstances, wars may break out at any point of time due to the contending interests of the Big Powers. But a continental or global war of our time may totally annihilate the existence of human beings from this planet. Thus, it is beyond any iota of doubt that both the concepts of sovereignty and nationalism must be regulated by an international system of control.


Address at Annamalai University, 9 January, 1957 – quoted by Clement, S. International Relations, Kitabmahal, Allahabad, India, p. 491 Eichelberger, C. M. UN, Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, 1966, p. 24 Godspeed, S. S. The Nature and Functions of International Organizations, p. 204 Gettell, R. G. Political Science, World Press, Calcutta, India, 1950, p. 476 Laski, H. J. A Grammar of Politics, p. 227 Lipson, L. The Great Issues of Politics, Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai, 1973, p. 404 MacIver, R. M. The Nations and the United Nations, p. 89 Nicholas, H. G. The United nations, Oxford University Press, London, 1963, p. 6 Nicholas, H. G. ibid, p. 105 Russell, B. Which Way to Peace? M. Joseph Pvt. Ltd, Great Britain, 1937, p. 189