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Remarks by EAM, Dr. S. Jaishankar at the inauguration of Arbitration Bar of India

May 11, 2024

Good Evening.

My Cabinet Colleague, Ashwini Vaishnav ji, .

Attorney General of India, Shri R. Venkataramani ji,

Solicitor General of India Shri Tushar Mehta ji,

President, Arbitration Bar of India, Shri Gourab Banerji,

Justice Hemant Gupta ji,

Luminaries of the legal world,


Dear friends.

I am delighted to join you all for the inauguration of the Arbitration Bar of India. Now, having listened very carefully to all the colleagues and speakers on the stage, what I believe we are hearing right now is the shrill cry of a digital birth which is mid wived by foot soldiers. And I cannot imagine that this product can have anything other than a great future. So let me say that this is a very significant step in the emergence of India as an arbitration venue. I know that all of you appreciate its significance more than I do. But let me as a foreign minister today really place it in a larger context and a context that I will borrow again from the AG’s reference to a triangle, a Greek Triangle. The triangle I use here is really one of Law, Business and Diplomacy.

2. In the last few decades, the global order has witnessed a rebalancing that is shaping its new directions. One facet of that is the democratization of institutions and activities. As economic capabilities emerge – or in our case reemerge – it is natural that many of its accompanying dimensions also spread out much more in the world. In that sense, the event for which we have come is reflective of a larger redistribution of power, of influence and of capabilities in the world. Obviously, this does not happen by itself and it requires both the vision of a leadership as well as the commitment of stakeholders to make it happen. And that is actually what we are witnessing in the country today. India is currently the fifth largest economy by GDP and likely to soon become the third largest. It is only to be expected that a domain as crucial as arbitration to the international economy should also find adequate expression here. Not just that, like in other spheres, we need to develop high-quality capabilities so that India too stands out in a competitive world.

3. So far as the Modi Government has, from its initial years, it has recognized the importance of arbitration in the country. I think many of us remember the Prime Minister’s speech at the National Initiative towards Strengthening Arbitration and Enforcement in India, where he actually spoke about quality arbitration mechanisms, which he saw as integral to Ease of Doing Business in the country, which he underlined how strongly our Government is committed. The key words here the quality of arbitration, ease of doing business and a commitment to make it happen. The establishment of an Arbitration Bar aligns with this vision to position India as a premier destination for arbitration.

4. It is really not necessary before this distinguished audience to delve on the importance of arbitration. We all know that it is an efficient and equitable method for resolving disputes, providing streamlined alternative to what can often be an intricate judicial process. Whether in domestic or international arenas, arbitration inspires confidence, fosters economic growth, and upholds the rule of law. In a world where time is of the essence and certainty is of paramount importance, arbitration is recognized as the cornerstone of modern dispute resolution.

5. This is particularly relevant for us to recognize in India at a time of rapid economic growth is taking place in a globalized environment. If we are to get full mileage from our 3D dividend of democracy, demographics and demand, then high-quality arbitration is a notable factor in further attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). Already to accelerate growth, the government has streamlined inter-state commerce with the Goods and Services Tax (GST), fostering a unified national market. Moreover, digitally enabled delivery, which Minister Vaishnaw referred to as well, is actually reforming the quality of governance and revolutionizing access to public goods. We have seen a surge in the entrepreneurial spirit, aided by a startup culture and facilitated by the expansion of skills. Legal reforms, including the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and amendments to financial laws, have helped to ensure a stable and predictable business environment. Strengthening dispute resolution mechanisms, such as commercial courts and alternative dispute resolution, is a natural corollary of these developments. They further enhance investor confidence and lighten the judicial burden.

6. I would like too share my own personal perspective own this matter. As some of you may have heard in the introduction, I was High Commissioner in Singapore some 15 years ago. It was the time when we concluded the CECA. But it was also a time when Singapore had started pushing for it becoming a preferred seat of arbitration. And if one looks back at those 15 years, and I think to a lot of us its very clear that how much actually the two processes reinforced each other in getting so many Indian companies to either offshore in Singapore or to look at Singapore as a favourable destination to address their disputes and differences.

7. As Foreign Minster, let me also say that my Ministry recognises the importance of arbitration in facilitating international trade and investment. By providing a stable and predictable dispute resolution mechanism, we see it as fostering confidence among foreign investors. We actively supported initiatives to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of arbitration proceedings, both domestically and internationally, collaborating with esteemed international bodies such as the UNCITRAL (UN Commission on International Trade Law), UNCCI (UNCITRAL National Coordination Committee for India), and the PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration).

8. Where Government of India is concerned, there have been reforms to bolster arbitration. They include amendments to the Arbitration Act and the establishment of arbitration institutions, which have contributed to administering proceedings, providing institutional support and the subject matter today, a panel of qualified arbitrators. The promotion of institutional arbitration has seen the judiciary encouraging parties to opt for institutional arbitration over ad hoc arbitration, emphasizing the benefits of institutional support and oversight in ensuring a fair and efficient resolution process.

9. While arbitration has deep roots in India, its contemporary practice is still evolving. And I thought today there were two important points made, one by the Solicitor General and the other by the Attorney General. The AG actually spoke of the Arbitration Bar as reflective of a Make in India emphasis to it. That we should not think of Make in India as simply a concept or a practice associated with the manufacturing world. I think it has dimensions in every aspect of national growth and development. And what we have gathered here to do is in many way is about Make in India where arbitration is concerned. So ‘Arbitrate in India’ is actually a facet of Make in India. The important point that the SG made was that it is not enough to be the venue, our striving should be to become the preferred seat and that obviously will take a lot of work. I referred to my own experiences out of Singapore and again I think what we have gathered here to do is an intrinsic step, a necessary step in that direction.

10. So let me conclude by saying this. India is today poised to make crucial decisions about its future. There is a foundation of a decade of transformation on which we are seeking to build a pathway for the next 25 years. Our goal is Viksit Bharat, that is developed India. This will not only have economic matrix but an all-round development that would include quality of life, ease of doing business, deep national strengths, technology capabilities, a larger role in the international economy, but not least, the institutions, the infrastructure and the talent that would actually define Viksit Bharat. It will certainly be a nation that will see more intensive and consequential economic activities, at home and abroad. The requirement to harmonize, mediate and settle differences and disputes will be even more as we progress on that journey towards Viksit Bharat. The legal world will also make it expected contribution to the evolution of Viksit Bharat. I believe that the inauguration of the Arbitration Bar of India is one noteworthy step in that direction.

I congratulate you all for joining me on this occasion.

Thank you for your attention.

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