a) The numbers game — On India’s victory at the ICJ

The election of Justice Dalveer Bhandari to the International Court of Justice for a second term is a major diplomatic success for India. Five of the 15 judges of the ICJ are elected every three years. This year there were six candidates for five slots. The winning candidates required a majority in both the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council in simultaneous voting through secret ballot. While four candidates were elected smoothly, Justice Bhandari and Christopher Greenwood of the United Kingdom ended in a dead heat as the former won the UNGA and the latter the UNSC in multiple rounds of voting. The U.K. wanted to end the voting and move to a conference mechanism, which involves selecting a panel of three UNGA members and three UNSC members, who would then elect the judge. This mechanism has never been used before. India opposed the move, and the U.K. could not gather adequate support for its demand in the UNSC. The U.K. then withdrew its candidate, paving the way for Justice Bhandari’s re-election. India and the U.K. had staked considerable diplomatic goodwill in the election, and the outcome is significant politically for both. For the first time, the U.K. will not have a judge on the ICJ. It is also the first time that a permanent member of the UNSC has lost at the ICJ on a vote. For British Prime Minister Theresa May the loss comes at a difficult time as she struggles with the process of leaving the European Union and with her own leadership coming under assault from Conservative MPs. In this context, the loss at the ICJ is being read as confirmation of the U.K.’s diminishing role in global affairs. As America’s inseparable and unquestioning junior partner, the country had asserted its relevance in the post-War order even as its military and economic power eroded. With the U.S. under President Donald Trump less guided by the “special relationship” with the U.K., a post-Brexit U.K. will have to do much more heavy-lifting in multilateral forums. For India, soon after its failure to gain membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the lobbying for the ICJ election has different lessons. With all five permanent members of the UNSC fiercely locking arms to protect their collective interest of dominating the world body, India’s success was built primarily on the support of developing countries, among whom it has nurtured goodwill over the decades. Japan also appeared to align with the P-5. India’s call for a more equitable world order has a better resonance among developing countries than the custodians of the current order. India’s support in the UNGA was expanding with subsequent rounds of voting, a reality the U.K. and the U.S. could not brush aside. For India, the takeaway is clear: to find a louder global voice, it also needs to put more emphasis on ties with countries away from the high table.

  1. b) Pill talk — on antibiotic resistance

Around the time the UN Climate Change Conference drew to a close in Bonn last week, so did the World Antibiotic Awareness Week, a World Health Organisation campaign to focus attention on antibiotic resistance. The global threats of climate change and antibiotic resistance have much in common. In both cases, the actions of people in one region have consequences across the globe. Also, tackling both requires collective action across multiple focus areas. For resistance, this means cutting the misuse of antibiotics in humans and farm animals, fighting environmental pollution, improving infection control in hospitals, and boosting surveillance. While most of these goals need government intervention, individuals have a critical part to play too. This is especially true for India, which faces a unique predicament when it comes to restricting the sale of antibiotics — some Indians use too few antibiotics, while others use too many. Many of the 410,000 Indian children who die of pneumonia each year do not get the antibiotics they need, while others misuse drugs, buying them without prescription and taking them for viral illnesses like influenza. Sometimes this irrational use is driven by quacks. But just as often, qualified doctors add to the problem by yielding to pressure from patients or drug-makers. This tussle — between increasing antibiotic use among those who really need them, and decreasing misuse among the irresponsible — has kept India from imposing blanket bans on the non-prescription sale of these drugs. When policymakers did propose such a ban in 2011, it was met with strong opposition. Instead, India turned to fine-edged tools such as the Schedule H1, a list of 24 critical antibiotics such as cephalosporins and carbapenems, whose sale is tightly controlled. But even Schedule H1 hasn’t accomplished much: pharmacists often flout rules, and drug controllers are unable to monitor them. Thus, the power to purchase antibiotics still remains in the hands of the consumer. It is up to consumers now to appreciate the threat of antibiotic resistance and exercise this power with care. These miracle drugs form the bedrock of modern medicine today, and are needed for everything from prophylaxis for a complicated hip surgery to treatment for an infected knee scrape. Losing these drugs would mean that even minor illnesses could become killers, and the cost of health care will soar. Consumers need to remember that not all illnesses need antibiotics, and the decision on when to take them and for how long is best left to a doctor. Multi-resistance in some tertiary-care hospitals to bugs like Staphylococcus aureus has grown to dangerous levels. But the experience of countries like Australia shows that cutting down on antibiotics can reverse such trends. The National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance aims to repeat such successes in India. Meanwhile, awareness must be built among consumers so that they see the coming crisis and take up the baton.


1) Ballot

Meaning: A system of voting secretly and in writing on a particular issue.

Example: “a strike ballot”

Synonyms: Election, Referendum

2) Withdrew

Meaning: Leave or cause to leave a place or situation.

Example: “UN forces withdrew from the province”

Synonyms: Leave, Evacuate

Antonyms: Enter

3) Paving

Meaning: Cover (a piece of ground) with flat stones or bricks; lay paving over.

Example: “the yard at the front was paved with flagstones”

Synonyms: Surface, Finish

4) Staked

Meaning: Mark an area with stakes so as to claim ownership of it.

Example: “the boundary between the two manors was properly staked out”

Synonyms: Demarcate, Define

5) Assault

Meaning: Make a physical attack on.

Example: “he pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer”

Synonyms: Hit, Strike

6) Diminishing

Meaning: Make or become less.

Example: “the new law is expected to diminish the government’s chances”

Synonyms: Decrease, Decline

Antonyms: Increase

7) Inseparable

Meaning: Unable to be separated or treated separately.

Example: “research and higher education seem inseparable”

Synonyms: Indivisible, Inextricable

8) Unquestioning

Meaning: Accepting something without dissent or doubt.

Example: “an unquestioning acceptance of the traditional curriculum”

Synonyms: Accept something.

9) Asserted

Meaning: State a fact or belief confidently and forcefully.

Example: “the company asserts that the cuts will not affect development”

Synonyms: Declare, Maintain

10) Relevance

Meaning: The quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate.

Example: “this film has contemporary relevance”

11) Eroded

Meaning: Gradually destroy or be gradually destroyed.

Example: “this humiliation has eroded what confidence Jean has”

Synonyms: Abrade, Crumble

12) Lobbying

Meaning: Seek to influence (a legislator) on an issue.

Example: “they insist on their right to lobby Congress”

Synonyms: Influence, Importune

13) Fiercely

Meaning: In a powerful and destructive manner.

Example: “the wind was blowing fiercely”

Synonyms: Powerful way

14) Nurtured

Meaning: Care for and protect (someone or something) while they are growing.

Example: “Jarrett was nurtured by his parents in a close-knit family”

Synonyms: Foster, Rear

Antonyms: Neglect, Hinder

15) Resonance

Meaning: The production of a sound as a result of vibration (= shaking) of another object.

Example: Magnetic resonance.

16) Brush aside

Meaning: To refuse to consider something seriously because you feel that it is not important.

Example: She brushed their objections aside, saying “Leave it to me.”

Synonyms: Unimportant, Deprecate

17) Louder

Meaning: Strong or emphatic in expression.

Example: “there were loud protests from the lumber barons”

Synonyms: Vociferous, Booming

Antonyms: Quiet, Soft

18) Emphasis

Meaning: Special importance, value, or prominence given to something.

Example: “they placed great emphasis on the individual’s freedom”

Synonyms: Prominence, Importance

19) Resistance

Meaning: The refusal to accept or comply with something.

Example: “they displayed a narrow-minded resistance to change”

Synonyms: Refusal, Opposition

Antonyms: Acceptance

20) Consequences

Meaning: A result or effect, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant.

Example: “abrupt withdrawal of drug treatment can have serious consequences”

Synonyms: Result, Outcome

Antonyms: Cause

21) Tackling

Meaning: Make determined efforts to deal with (a problem or difficult task).

Example: “police have launched an initiative to tackle rising crime”

Synonyms: Approach, Manage

22) Cutting

Meaning: (of a comment) causing emotional pain; hurtful.

Example: “a cutting remark”

Synonyms: Hurtful, Wounding

Antonyms: Friendly, Pleasant

23) Surveillance

Meaning: Close observation, especially of a suspected spy or criminal.

Example: “he found himself put under surveillance by British military intelligence”

Synonyms: Scrutiny, Watch

24) Predicament

Meaning: A difficult, unpleasant, or embarrassing situation.

Example: “the club’s financial predicament”

Synonyms: Mess, Difficulty

25) Pneumonia

Meaning: lung inflammation caused by bacteria or viral infection, in which the air sacs fill with pus and may become solid. Inflammation may affect both lungs ( double pneumonia ) or only one ( single pneumonia ).

26) Irrational

Meaning: Not logical or reasonable.

Example: “irrational feelings of hostility”

Synonyms: Unreasonable, Illogical

Antonyms: Rational, Logical

27) Quacks

Meaning: A person who dishonestly claims to have special knowledge and skill in some field, typically medicine.

Example: “a quack doctor”

Synonyms: Fraud, Trickster

28) Tussle

Meaning: A vigorous struggle or scuffle, typically in order to obtain or achieve something.

Example: “there was a tussle for the ball”

Synonyms: Scuffle, Struggle

29) Fine-edged

Meaning: (of a knife or tool) having a sharp cutting edge.

Example: “a fine-edged diamond scalpel”

Synonyms: Sharp

30) Accomplished

Meaning: Highly trained or skilled in a particular activity.

Example: “an accomplished pianist”

Synonyms: Expert, Skillful

Antonyms: Incompetent

31) Flout

Meaning: Openly disregard (a rule, law, or convention).

Example: “the advertising code is being flouted”

Synonyms: Defy, Scorn

Antonyms: Observe

32) Miracle

Meaning: a remarkable event or development that brings very welcome consequences.

Example: “it was a miracle that more people hadn’t been killed”

Synonyms: Remarkable, Wonder

33) Bedrock

Meaning: The fundamental principles on which something is based.

Example: “honesty is the bedrock of a good relationship”

Synonyms: Base, Foundation

34) Prophylaxis

Meaning: Treatment given or action taken to prevent disease.

Example: “all patients received preoperative antibiotic prophylaxis”

Synonyms: Prevention, Protection

35) Tertiary

Meaning: Third in order or level.

Example: “the tertiary stage of the disease”

36) Staphylococcus

Meaning: A type of bacteria that looks like bunches of grapes when seen under a microscope; a bacterium of a genus that includes many pathogenic kinds that cause pus formation, especially in the skin and mucous membranes.

37) Bugs

Meaning: A very small insect.

Example: We lifted the stone to see if there were any bugs or worms underneath.

Synonyms: Worms, Insects

38) Cutting down

Meaning: To do or use less of something.

Example: I’m trying to cut down on caffeine.

Synonyms: Reduce, Lessen

Antonyms: Increase, Escalate

39) Antimicrobial

Meaning: Able to destroy harmful microbes (= small living things that can cause disease)

Example: Some enzymes found in milk are thought to have natural antimicrobial properties.

40) Baton

Meaning: A thick, heavy stick used as a weapon by police officers.

Example: “riot policemen swinging batons”