The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India fields Tharoor for UN top job

New York, June 14: India is to field its candidate for the job of secretary-general of the UN. The choice has fallen on Shashi Tharoor, an alumnus of Calcutta’s St. Xavier’s School.

A UN civil servant for 28 years, Tharoor is currently under-secretary-general for communications and public information at the world body’s headquarters here.

Barring any last-minute hitch, a formal announcement will be made in New Delhi in a few days.

If the Indian campaign on behalf of Tharoor is successful, it will be the first time in the 61-year history of the UN that the world’s most high-profile job has gone to an Indian. Tharoor’s candidature has been on the cards since last November.

But it gathered momentum in New Delhi after the UN Security Council decided a fortnight ago to bring out its first list of candidates to succeed Kofi Annan by July 15.

The council also decided that only candidates officially nominated by member governments would figure on the list.

Previously, anyone could nominate a candidate.

The sudden change forced India to take a quick decision. It was feared in New Delhi that unless an Indian nominee was on the first list, any international campaign for winning the job would lose momentum.

Annan’s second five-year term in office ends on December 31. His successor, who will be picked by the council around October, will take office on January 1, 2007.

The choice of a successor will have to be acceptable to all the five permanent members of the council.

By convention, this is Asia’s turn to have a secretary-general. The last Asian to hold the job was Myanmar’s U. Thant who had two five-year terms from 1961. But there is no agreement within Asia on a common candidate.

The Asian frontrunner so far has been Sri Lankan diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala, a former UN under-secretary-general for disarmament. India strongly opposes his candidature because he was instrumental in the 1990s in securing an extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in perpetuity. India has repeatedly spurned the treaty.

At last year’s South Asian summit in Dhaka, India blocked Saarc from endorsing Dhanapala as a joint candidate. Thailand’s deputy Prime Minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, and South Korea’s foreign minister, Ban Ki Moon, are the other Asian candidates for now.

India’s decision to nominate Tharoor has been prompted partly by the realisation that their campaigns have failed to take off.

Exploiting the lack of unanimity in Asia, several East European leaders have put forward their names. But Russia and China have threatened to veto any East European candidate.

Tharoor’s campaign is expected to be built around his oft-quoted statement that “the UN needs reform not because it has failed, but because it has accomplished enough over the years to be worth investing in”.

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