|Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is presented flowers on Wednesday before leaving for the G8 summit. (PTI)
New York, July 6: In a huge shot in the arm for New Delhi’s current campaign for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, India has outpolled both China and Japan in elections to the executive council of the Inter-Governmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).
Of the 89 United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) members eligible to vote for the commission’s executive council, only three countries did not vote for India: one was obviously Pakistan.
Voting in Unesco is secret and there is much speculation here about the two other votes cast against India.
Despite those three votes, India came out on top for eight vacancies in the IOC, which was set up in 1960 “in order to properly interpret the full value of the oceans to mankind”.
The IOC’s importance has increased manifold after the recent tsunami in Asia, in which India was also affected.
The IOC assists governments in dealing with their oceanic and coastal problems.
This is the first time in 25 years that India has polled more votes than either China or Japan within the Unesco.
UN diplomats in Paris, where the voting took place, said the number of votes notched up by India was a recognition of its “solid background” in oceanography. They said it was also a reflection of India’s stature in UN bodies, which was on the ascend since New Delhi’s disastrous bid in 1996 to get into the Security Council as a non-permanent member.
Not long ago, Indian ambassadors in western Europe had collectively written to South Block arguing that India should not field candidates for any poll within the UN unless victory was guaranteed by a two-thirds majority. Defying that defeatist line, Indian diplomats at various UN posts had in recent months favoured throwing India’s hat in the ring in such elections.
The first significant victory, turning its back on the1996 fiasco, came in October last year when 174 of the UN’s 191 members voted for India in an election to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
That victory, in which India scored over China and left Pakistan way behind, gave the necessary confidence to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to embark on New Delhi’s current bid with the Group of Four nations for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
The victory in the IOC poll has been made sweeter because India had only two days to campaign for its spectacular win. Until two days before the choice of the new IOC executive, the election for eight posts was to have been by a unanimous list: that changed when Iran entered the field and caused an election.