I reckon the guys at South Block must have burnt the midnight oil several times in coming to a decision, for it was never going to be an easy one! Finally India has nominated Shashi Tharoor for the top UN job. At the outset let me wish Tharoor the best of luck! If foreign affairs correspondents were to vote, he might get elected unanimously! I guess he should be the most interviewed UN official ever! Apart from his diplomatic and literary credentials, I admire him for the guts he showed in criticizing the BJP govt's handling of Gujarat riots when conventional wisdom would have suggested keeping the Vajpayee government in good humor.
Firstly its unfortunate that member countries are now required to nominate candidates, which makes its a contest between nations. Selling Tharoor would have been a lot easier than selling India. Reasonable minds would have easily rejected Thai and South Korean politicians and it would have come down to choosing between two seasoned UN diplomats in Shashi Tharoor and Jayanth Dhanapala of Srilanka. But now the world capitals will be scratching their heads on the possibility of having an 'Indian' chief for the UN. With Pakistan widely expected to nominate its own candidate simply to add nuisance value, stakes are much higher for India now.
UN secretary generals have always been from low-key states. So should India, aspiring to be a top dog in the security council, gotten itself into the race now? I think yes. Not only is the SC expansion very unlikely in the near future, better if its late! Whenever SC is expanded, India would no-doubt be there. So why bother if Nigeria or South Africa gets in or not? More >>
However the jingoism about an Indian head for UN is unnecessary. Tharoor as UN chief is unlikely to bring any benefits to India. Infact this would put us in a spot over UN role in Kashmir besides weakening our resolve to keep UN out of other South Asian issues like Nepal and Srilanka which we consider to be our fiefdom. I thought somebody in MEA would be thinking about getting rid of the UN ceasefire monitoring group in the LOC. Apparently not. Besides Colombo would not be very happy with this development. Why not India put its weight behind Dhanapala? That gesture would have gone down well with all our neighbors. May be India would have done so had Kadirgammar been still alive and in the race.
Anyway what made India take the plunge? South block mandarins probably think that getting Tharoor elected will showcase India's sustained interest in the UN which could be used as a bargaining chip later on. The fact that India got elected with the most number of votes to the UN Human rights council recently would have encouraged them further. The apparent lack of a front runner amongst the three contenders and the availability of a strong candidate in Shashi Tharoor would have sealed the case. If we do manage to get Tharoor elected (which I think we will), all is well. If not, this would a very unnecessary loss of face.