My distinguished friends and colleagues,
I accepted the mandate with all humility, and clearly with a strong expectation that my friends both at the Indian Society of International Law – with whom I have had such a long association – as well as outside among the tribes of law academics and practitioners. I felt further humbled by the fact that the past presidents of the Asian Society, Judge Xue Hanquin and Judge Owada Hisashi have been tall personalities with wide reputation as international jurists. Both their individual stature as well as the record of performance that they have left behind have indeed been too formidable even to equal, let alone surpass.
A word about the Asian Society of International Law
To the uninitiated, the Asian Society was launched in April 2007 after three years of planning and preparations by the scholars and practitioners alike from across the region with a view to promoting international law in Asia. The founding fathers included Judge Owada, Ambassador Tommy Koh, Professor R. P. Anand and Professor Onuma Yasuaki. The Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore generously plays the host for the Secretariat of the Society. The Asian Society has, since its inception, been able to attract a number of Judges of the ICJ. International Criminal Court, UN Law of the Sea Tribunal, members of the international Law Commission, Legal advisors, senior Professors, Legal Practitioners and Law Firms, largely from countries of Asia-Oceania. Yet the membership is truly international.
The Asian Society performs a delightful coordinating role in its relations with sister national societies, often depending on the national societies to hold its Biennial Conferences and the interim joint conferences to deliberate on issues of international law of mutual interest.
The objectives of the Asian Society, as highlighted by my illustrious predecessor, are as follows:
i. Organize biennial conferences, regional seminars, sub-regional workshops and other meetings;
ii. Undertake publications for the Society, including the proceedings of the conferences organized by the Society; and
iii. Collect databases and disseminate information relating to research, academic activities, and state practice in the field of international law in this part of the world.
Asian Journal of International Law
The Asian Society has its flagship publication, the Asian Journal of International Law (AsianJIL), which under a broad-based Board of Editors publishes peer-reviewed scholarly articles and book reviews on public and private international law, broadly retaining the regional focus on Asian issues; or Asian perspectives to bear on issues of global concern. The Editorial Board has so far done a commendable job in making the journal popular, and a journal to reckon with, among the international law community at large. The Asian Society appreciates the cooperation of the Cambridge University Press in publishing the Journal in style and on time. I exhort my distinguished colleagues in the Asian Society to contribute to strengthen the Journal whichever way they can.
Asia is the largest continent inhabited by over one half of humanity. Many ancient languages (including Latin, Greek and Sanskrit) refer to it as the land of the rising sun or the Goddess of the Dawn. It has been the cradle of many ancient human civilizations, and most of the prominent religions of the world today. The variety and diversity of thoughts that its multitudes of peoples engender are phenomenal and mind-boggling. The world has just begun to take notice of them. Yet, there remains a pronounced intellectual gap in the scholarly writings of the Western world that display little or no notice of the contributions of the Asian scholars. This is particularly true in international law literature. Asian scholars are also partly at fault – they fail to take notice of fellow Asian scholars, including, often, their own compatriots. Has international law research become eclectic? One hopes, not.
The Asian Society has, since its inception, taken upon itself the task of collecting information and research materials on Asian contributions to international law. This is indeed monumental work that calls for the wholehearted support of the entire membership of the Asian Society and even its friends outside.
Membership of Asian Society of International Law
Membership of the Asian Society is largely individually based, with voluntary national groups established in some of the Asian countries, such as Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia. Institutional memberships are also welcome. In the recent meeting of the EC, it was decided that each member of the EC should initiative a personal drive to attract more members to the Society. Being eminent international lawyers themselves, such personal contacts by the EC members will help enhance the membership of the Society.
It is important for us to work for expansion of the Asian Society membership to cover many important countries of the region – countries of South Asia like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, and also the West Asia. We cordially invite lawyers, law academics and diplomats of these countries to become members of the Asian Society and strengthen and widen its activities, so that it can truly be called “Asian.”
Research and Planning Committee
The Executive Council has made some innovations concerning the composition of the RPC. After much negotiation, we have been able to put in place an RPC whose membership is drawn from almost all countries of Asia from which we have members in the Asian Society. Hopefully, under Professor Shirley Scott and Professor Yogesh Kumar Tyagi as Co-Chairs, and Professor Raul Pangalangan Professor Mogami Toshiki as Deputy Chairs, we are confident that the RPC will be able to cope with its work in the days to come.
4th Biennial Conference of Asian Society
The Indian Society of International Law, New Delhi proposes to hold the 4th Biennial Conference of the Asian Society at the Habitat Centre, a sprawling conference facility in New Delhi, from 14th to 16th November, 2013. I most cordially invite you all to the conference. I request you all to block these dates in your diaries.
See you then in New Delhi during Delhi’s pleasant, sunny and mild winter!