Indian diplomat, author, and UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor has been nominated by India for the position of UN Secretary General. India is also looking for support from Asian countries for regional rotation of the top post. According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) the next UN head should be from Asia when the present Secretary General Kofi Annan steps down in December. The African group has extended its support for regional rotation.
In response to the nomination, 50-year-old Tharoor told DNA, “As someone who has served the UN for 28 years and believes in the organisation, I am deeply honoured to be nominated.” If Tharoor winds up with the top job, he will be the first Indian in 61 years to helm the UN and also the youngest. In recent times, Tharoor has met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh twice to discuss the issue. He has also met Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
A final decision on the candidate for the top UN post is expected by October-November this year.
Tharoor is the author of eight books and has won many literary awards including the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. Currently the Under Secretary General Communications and Public Information at the UN, Tharoor has handled many key areas in the UN including peacekeeping, communication strategy, and human rights. As part of the UN's communications strategy, Tharoor undertook responsibility for ensuring the "coherence and effectiveness" of the UN's external message.
According to the MEA, "Tharoor's internationally acclaimed stature and experience make him eminently suitable to become the next Secretary General of the United Nations." India is looking at garnering support for Tharoor's candidature from other member countries.
The US has not made an announcement on its support for candidates of any country. They will do so near to the end of the process. According to reports, Bush administration officials have said that considering that the post of Secretary General is extremely important, the US will look very carefully at the nominees. Tharoor's competitors include South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-Moon, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, and Sri Lankan diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has indicated that it is likely to field its own candidate for the top post. According to reports, Pakistan has been considering the issue for a while and India's announcement will definitely hasten a decision.
There are also concerns that this move may put paid to India's ambition of becoming a permanent member of the UN security council. According to sources, traditionally, permanent members do not field candidates for the post of Secretary General. As a result former Secretary Generals have belonged to smaller states such as Norway (Trygve Lie), Sweden (Dag Hammarskjold), Burma (U Thant), Austria (Kurt Waldheim), Peru (Javier Perez de Cuellar), Egypt (Boutros Boutros-Ghali) and Ghana (Kofi Annan).
To secure the post, Tharoor will need the backing of the five members of the Security Council: the US, Britain, Russia, France, and China. Tharoor's campaign will revolve around the need to overhaul the UN. What might work for Tharoor is the fact that he has been part of the UN bureaucracy for years and understands the system very well.