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Tokyo dumps Delhi team vying for UN trophy

New York, Jan. 7: Japan has bribed its way out of active membership in the Group of Four (G4) countries campaigning for permanent membership of the UN Security Council, offering India a package of goodies, including record bilateral aid loans, a relaxed visa regime, 4,000 placements in Japan under a new exchange programme and several other sops.

A day after mollifying the Indian leadership in New Delhi, Japanese diplomats at the UN told their Indian counterparts that Tokyo had started separate unilateral consultations with the Bush administration on securing its case of a permanent seat at the UN’s high table.

Japan has also started similar talks with China, which is uncompromisingly opposed to Japan’s entry into the Security Council and argues that “only countries that face up to history and take responsibility for their actions can play a greater role in international affairs”. In Beijing’s view, Japan does not meet this criteria.

In response to Tokyo’s decision to jump ship, India, Germany and Brazil -- now effectively reduced to a Group of Three (G3) -- hurriedly re-tabled in the General Assembly their resolution of July 6 last year, which had lapsed in September.

It calls for 10 new seats in an expanded Security Council: one permanent seat for every G4 member, two for Africa and four non-permanent seats.

Japan refused to join its three former allies in the Security Council bid or to co-sponsor the re-introduced resolution. But it is trying to keep one leg in the G4 camp even as it is talking to the Americans on a new proposal which would be acceptable to Washington.

Shinichi Iida, the spokesman for Japan’s permanent mission to the UN, split hairs trying to expalin this clever, but contradictory move. “There is a clear distinction between the G4 draft resolution and the G4 cooperative framework,” he told reporters.

“Japan tried to persuade them (India, Germany and Brazil) not to submit the resolution.” Iida revealed. “We do not believe the G4 draft in its current form can garner the necessary support.”

Apart from disillusionment with the G4 process, there is a tale behind Japan’s unwillingness to join India, Germany and Brazil in the fresh bid for General Assembly support for their plans.

Last year, Tokyo had bribed several African countries as part of its efforts to get that continent's crucial support for the G4 resolution. Italy's permanent representative to the UN all but named Japan while detailing these bribes in the UN General Assembly.

The Africans have tabled their own resolution in the current General Assembly calling for 11 new members in the Security Council, including six permanent members, all with veto power.

An African summit, scheduled for January 22, is expected take a decision on whether to put that resolution to vote.

“We do not want to antagonise our relations with African nations that see this (re-tabling of the G4 resolution) as a hostile move,” the Japanese spokesman admitted.

Japanese diplomats are aghast at any suggestion that they are using cheque book diplomacy in their dealings with India or any other member of the UN.

But India has been at the receiving end of such Japanese tactics before. In 1996, Japan routed India in an election to the Security Council, when permanent representatives of governments which had proclaimed support for New Delhi were lured into voting for Tokyo in the secret ballot in the General Assembly.

A joint statement issued in New Delhi at the end of a visit by Japan’s new foreign minister Taro Aso on Wednesday speaks for itself.

It listed all the sops offered to India a day before delivering the blow in New York about virtually abandoning the G4.

At his meeting with minister of state for external affairs, E. Ahamed, and others, Aso made much of his decision to choose New Delhi his first destination in Asia after becoming foreign minister about two months ago.

The joint statement papered over bilateral differences on tactics at the UN when it merely said “the coming together of the G4 has been a significant development”.

It is not Tokyo’s style, especially since World War II, to annoy other countries or to call a spade a spade. Hence the elaborate effort to mollify India and other G4 members, instead of telling them plainly that they are being dumped outright in pursuit of what Japan considers its interests.

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