| Shashi Tharoor
New York, Oct. 3: India’s hopes of getting Shashi Tharoor elected as the next secretary-general of the UN were dashed after the US cast its veto against New Delhi’s nominee.
One veto was cast against Tharoor on Monday in the first straw poll in the Security Council in which five permanent members used blue coloured ballot paper to indicate a veto.
Tharoor conceded defeat as soon as it became clear that a permanent member had voted against him, though he had improved his position in the latest straw poll and continued to be a close second in the race.
He wrote to the frontrunner, South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-Moon, congratulating him.
Before dropping out of the race, Tharoor issued a statement thanking the Indian government for nominating him as its candidate.
The votes for electing the secretary-general are so secret that all Security Council members use the same pen in order not to identify the voters even by the ink or pen points they use for marking the ballot papers.
But it is clear that the Americans vetoed Tharoor’s candidature because the Bush administration told New Delhi in advance that they had decided to throw their support behind South Korea’s foreign minister.
This decision was conveyed to the now-retired foreign secretary Shyam Saran by the US under-secretary of state for political affairs, Nicholas Burns, when the two men met in New York on September 20.
According to those present at that meeting, Burns told Saran that President George W. Bush had taken the decision after South Korea’s President, Roh Moo-hyun, visited the White House on September 14.
Lobbying for US support in South Korea’s bid for the UN’s top job was high on Roh’s agenda.
In order not to offend India, Burns rationalised that Bush was very concerned about irritants in US-South Korea relations and did not want to add one more by opposing Ban for the UN job, which was only of peripheral interest to the present White House.
John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, confirmed the Bush administration’s preference for Ban, after casting his vote in favour of the South Korean. “To the US government, he (Ban) is well known, highly respected. I know him personally since he served in the South Korean embassy in Washington in the early 1990s,” Bolton said.
Ban is a “foreign minister of a treaty ally of the US. The US is very pleased with the outcome”, Bolton added.
By a coincidence, it was Ban, during his posting in Washington, who had steered efforts along with the Americans to secure his country’s membership of the UN. South Korea has been a UN member for only 15 years.
In Monday’s straw poll, Tharoor won the support of 10 council members, including four permanent members, while two non-permanent members and the US voted against him.
Two other non-permanent members expressed “no opinion” against his name.
In his statement, Tharoor said: “Though I have never been an official of the (Indian) government, I consider it a great honour to have been the bearer of India’s nomination.”
The Security Council will hold a formal vote next Monday, after which Ban’s name will be sent to the General Assembly for approval.