| UN staff inspect ballot boxes before the vote on the new non-permanent Security Council members. (Reuters)
Washington, Oct. 17: India has refused to be persuaded by the US into supporting America’s client state of Guatemala in the election of non-permanent members to the UN Security Council.
A source in New Delhi with regular access to the Prime Minister said Manmohan Singh was not swayed by a call from President George W. Bush yesterday, indirectly seeking India’s vote for Guatemala to ensure the defeat of Venezuela, a harsh critic of American policies.
Hectic consultations at the highest levels of the government in New Delhi followed the call from the White House.
The source said the consultations were mostly on secure “Restricted Access” (RAX) telephone lines that link ministers and high officials in the capital.
“Since the vote at the UN was only hours away when Bush called, it was not possible to call high-level meetings and consultations had to be done on the RAX lines,” the source said.
In the end, the Prime Minister, who is also external affairs minister, decided that it was not necessary to change instructions, which had been sent out earlier on Monday to the Indian mission to the UN to vote for Venezuela.
Accordingly, Indian diplomats supported Venezuela in all the 12 rounds of voting in the General Assembly hall that have so far taken place since Monday morning.
Ten rounds of voting took place yesterday, the last one late on Monday night.
Guatemala led in all the rounds except one, when both Guatemala and Venezuela bagged 93 votes each.
Each country seeking a non-permanent seat in the Security Council should get a two-thirds endorsement from the General Assembly, which has 192 members.
In one of the rounds, Guatemala received 116 votes, still short of the magic figure of 128. With some countries abstaining, Guatemala could scrape through with 125 votes, but at the time of writing, there was no indication that this was about to happen.
In 1979, when Cuba and Colombia similarly fought for the Latin American seat, the voting went into 154 rounds and lasted nearly three months.
In the end, both countries withdrew from the race and agreed on a compromise third candidate: Mexico.
US ambassador John Bolton repeatedly cornered envoys of UN member states outside the General Assembly hall seeking support for Guatemala before each round.
Bolton is a veteran of the Bush election stalemate in 2000 when counting of votes in Florida went on for 31 days.
He even cancelled a meeting with Bush yesterday to campaign for Guatemala and referred to the Florida vote count at one point.
Venezuela’s ambassador to the UN, Francisco Arias Cardenas, sought inspiration for his country’s fight from the Vietnam war. “With the example of the Vietnamese people, how could we give up in a day'” he asked.