AMAZON, VODAFONE and Cairn Energy operate in different industries: e-commerce, telecoms and oil-and-gas exploration, respectively. But they share a common predicament. All are waging legal battles over their Indian operations—and doing so outside India.
The trio are part of a larger wave. Last year nearly 500 cases filed in the Singapore International Arbitration Centre came from India. No other country came close (see chart). The number of Indian parties involved in arbitration through the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce tripled last year, to 147. More quietly, London remains a crucial centre for India-related commercial spats, as to a lesser extent does The Hague. Two newish arbitration centres in the United Arab Emirates, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, want in on the game.
Narendra Modi, the prime minister, is believed to dislike this trend. His administration sees it, with reason, as an infringement of India’s sovereignty—but also as impugning its laws and judicial process. The resistance to outside meddling in the country’s legal affairs is echoed by its bar association, which blocks foreign lawyers and law firms from practising locally.