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Since 1st March, 1999
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Kofi set for standalone trip to Delhi
Annan: In focus

New York, April 23: India's much-talked about progression towards global power status will be implicitly recognised on Tuesday when UN secretary-general Kofi Annan arrives in New Delhi on a two-day official visit.

Annan is not going to any other South Asian country on this trip.

The secretary-general planned trips to India last year and in 2003, but those trips were quietly shelved as New Delhi was unenthusiastic about receiving Annan as part of his visit to Pakistan as well.

The last time the UN chief visited India was in 2001 on a trip that took him also to Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

A large number of world leaders combine their visits to India and Pakistan when they travel to South Asia.

Among the exceptions are India's close friends of long standing, such as successive Soviet and Russian leaders.

India and Pakistan were both part of US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice's recent visit to Asia and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao took in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in a single trip.

Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will also be both in India and Pakistan in the next few days.

Annan's meetings with Indian leaders are pregnant with implications since he is about to embark on much-anticipated UN reforms.

These reforms will be the main subject of discussions between him and Indian leaders: the President and Prime Minister, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader L K Advani.

The diplomatic community at the UN headquarters here is confident that notwithstanding the latest spat between Beijing and Tokyo over Japan's claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, expansion of the Council to include India and others will be passed at the next General Assembly in September.

Although public attention during Annan's talks in New Delhi will be focused on Security Council expansion, his Indian interlocutors plan to discuss in detail the whole gamut of UN reform.

India's permanent representative to the UN, Nirupam Sen, has set the stage for Indian support for Annan's reform package through a series of statements here this month, including one at a plenary meeting of the General Assembly and another at the Assembly's "informal thematic consultations" on Annan's reform report released last month.

In these statements, Sen has coined the expression "efficiency through enlargement", which is likely to be the theme for Security Council expansion by India, Japan, Germany and Brazil during the remainder of their campaign for permanent seats at the UN's high table.

Annan and the UN, at the receiving end of the Bush administration's barely-concealed allergy towards multilateral institutions, needs the support of the international community to implement reform.

His trip to India seeking such support is a recognition that after a few decades of being irrelevant, New Delhi's standing among the community of nations is on the ascent again.

That he is visiting only India in South Asia is an acknowledgement of its emerging role beyond the confines of South Asia.

Other than Security Council reform, a lot of Annan's discussions in New Delhi will focus on UN peacekeeping.

India is one of the biggest contributors to the UN peacekeeping force, whose present strength is over 60,000.

This figure will go up further both in overall terms and India's share with UN peacekeeping in Sudan, but the world body's peacekeeping officials are expressing inability to handle any more such new assignments.

India rejected international relief after the tsunami, but will seek help from UNDP and others for medium to long term reconstruction, estimated at between $2 to $3 billion.

Annan has created the right atmospherics for his discussions in New Delhi by his statements since his last visit to India that UN resolutions on Kashmir are not self-enforcing.

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