International law consists of rules and principles governing the relations and dealings of nations with each other, as well as the relations between states and individuals, and relations between international organizations.
Resolving disputes between nations and parties residing in or doing business in different countries can be highly complex. International law regulates the global commons, such as global communication and world trade. With globalisation at its prime, international laws have proven to be important instruments in promoting peace and order among nations.
Shravan Yammanur, Advocate began his career in international law by joining the chambers of Mr. Rajiv Dutta- a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India and an arbitrator. This interview with him aims to give you an idea of building a career in international law. In this interview, Shravan also answers some questions relevant to the current global scenario.
Please tell us a bit about yourself. What inspired you to pursue law?
I am a lawyer based out of Delhi focusing on disputes resolution and policy. My practice consists of commercial disputes before courts in Delhi and investment treaty arbitration.
My interest in international relations led me to pursue law- I realised that international law played an important role in regulating international relations and felt that a thorough understanding of the law would enable one to influence international relations and policy-making.
How did you begin your career post your law degree? At what point did you decide to pursue a career in International Law? What drew you to it? How did you go about it?
During my time at the National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS), Kochi, I realised that my interest was not just limited to international law and was actually in dispute resolution both domestic and international, which required similar skills of advocacy. This led me to join the chambers of Mr. Rajiv Dutta- a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India and an arbitrator.
As I said earlier, I was always keen to have a career in international law even before law school and I completed a diploma in international law and diplomacy at the Indian Society of International Law while I was a part of the chambers of Mr. Dutta.
I was looking for opportunities in international law after I spent a few years at the Supreme Court and was selected for a legal advisory position at the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance. India had just terminated a large number of its old generation of investment treaties and commenced negotiations with a number of countries for new investment treaties. I got the opportunity to be part of these negotiations with a significant number of countries and to advise India on several disputes arising from investment treaties. In addition to the work on investment treaties, I was also involved in formulating India’s position on international investment policy at G20, BRICS, and WTO.
As a former member of India’s negotiating team for International Investment Treaties, what are your thoughts on India’s stand on RCEP membership?
India took a calibrated stand based on the geopolitical situation and the nature of the commitments contained in the RCEP Agreement. India already has an FTA with ASEAN as well as bilateral FTAs with Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia. Recently, there has been a lot of momentum in finalizing a bilateral FTA with Australia as well. The commitments under RCEP would not help India achieve fair and balanced trade unless India is in a position to also take advantage of FTAs by creating a strong domestic industry. The disadvantages of joining the RCEP Agreement far outweighed the benefits at that time. India can always join the RCEP Agreement at a time when it suits India’s interests and RCEP members have publicly stated that India is always welcome to join RCEP.
How receptive are states and corporate entities to ADR, in your experience? If there is any reluctance in taking this approach, what could be the reasons for it? What are some of the major challenges you face in this field?
States and corporate entities have adopted ADR as the preferred mode for settlement of disputes and arbitration has become the ‘go to’ dispute resolution mechanism. We can see arbitration as the standard dispute resolution mechanism in contracts entered into by corporate entities and States including treaties. However, in my experience, while States wish to explore mediation and negotiation as modes for settlement of disputes often there is a lack of appetite due to the involvement of public money and political factors. This means that an award from an arbitrator or a decision of a judge is easier to implement for States than exploring meditation or negotiation. States should create a structured mechanism to empower officials to use mediation and negotiation for dispute settlement.
What, do you think, went wrong between Russia and Ukraine? What do you think could have and can still be done to resolve the conflict?
The course of actions that led to the present regretful situation between Russia and Ukraine is a matter of record. Enough has not been done to ensure peace in the region, peaceful means of resolving the disputes were clearly not implemented and this led to a lack of trust by both sides. The use of force and the threat of use of force cannot lead to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Instead of using the good offices of world leaders to resolve the dispute, there seemed to be an antagonist approach by countries from outside the region. The present conflict can only be resolved by mediation or negotiation, the recent meetings in Belarus are encouraging and should be supported by world leaders in order to resolve this conflict peacefully. Hopefully, the common heritage of the Ukrainians and Russians will allow both sides to resolve this dispute soon and prevent the further loss of lives and property.
What is your suggestion for students/professionals who want to pursue a career in International Law? What are the avenues open to them?
The avenues for a career in international law are many for students/professionals as they can become academicians, government officers or advisors, work at international organisations and tribunals, private practitioners, or arbitrators/mediators.
International law is complex and multifaceted today. Globalisation has increased the commercial and political interactions between countries leading to the growth of both public and private international law.
In areas such as international investment and trade law, practitioners or academicians need to study both private and public international law. Now companies and private individuals equally require support in navigating the complexities of international law in addition to States. Students/professionals who want to pursue a career in international law should obtain a strong foundational knowledge of the fundamentals of international law but focus on specialisation in the area of law which interests them as there are a growing number of professionals who practise international law- this can be in the form of an advanced degree in a specific subject or working with specialists in a subject.