Putting rights issues through the looking glass. Not seeking answers, just some food for thought to see whether things could be any different!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Weighing the chances: Will Tharoor make it?

As we are all aware, Shashi Tharoor is one of the candidates for the post of the UN Secretray General as Kofi Annan's term ends this December. The Government of India has officialy nominated Tharoor as their candidate for the post.
While it is a great moment for India as one of its own is being considered for the top job at the UN, one cannot help but spare a moment to think about Tharoor's real chances at making it there and what are the hurdles that he might have to face at his attempt to make it to the top.
Unofficially, accordingly to the rotationary principle that operates in the UN circles, it is apparentlyAsia's turn to finally have one of their candidates heading the UN this time around. To remind you, there has been an Asian who has held the post earlier, Burma's U. Thant who held the post between 1961-1971. Eventually, everything is in the hands of the Security Council to choose their candidate but the Asian and African group have been routing big time for an Asian. The chances of Kofi Annan's successor at the UN being an Asian are fairly bright.
But Shashi Tharoor is not the only Asian in the fray. There is Sri Lanka's Jayanta Dhanapala, Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister, Surakiart Sathirathal and South Korea's Foreign Minister, Ban Ki Moon. Apart from this, there are other contenders from European countries as well.
To win, a candidate would require nine of the fifteen Security Council votes with no vetoes from the permanent members. Now, that is not easy, is it? While there are five Asian and African countries among the non permanent members of the Council, the real challenge for Tharoor is to get those votes from the permanent seaters at the UNSC.
Tharoor has impeccable credentials for sure and has served the UN for a little less than three decades now, in various capacities and as an insider, is indeed a very strong contender. But given the political nature of the post in question, does he have the necessary political support to make it?
After the initial confusion between the MEA and the PMO, Tharoor's nomination as India's candidate is now official and campaigning has begun in diplomatic circles on his behalf.
India has supported Tharoor's candidacy despite the fact that ASEAN has fielded its own candidate for the post. The differences between India and the ASEAN are not unknown but India has taken the risk, not only to support the son of the soil but also keeping in mind, the benefits that Tharoor's election to the post accrue. For starters, it is claimed that Tharoor's election will definitely strengthen India's chances of getting a permanent seat at the Security Council!
But the Indian government has quashed claims that its support for Tharoor is based on the fact that he is an ideal candidate to head the UN and they also harped on the application of the regional rotationary principle.
Tharoor himself has denied such claims and has clearly stated in interviews that if elected, he will be an Indian Secretary General but not India's Secretary General.
Tharoor's closeness to the incumbent, Kofi Annan is likely to curtail his chances because Annan has received a lot of flak in the recent past for his stand on the Iraq war etc, as has been claimed by UN experts but Tharoor has claimed that his greatest advantage in this race is his experience and committment towards the UN. However, many claim that the very fact that he is an insider could work against him as states may prefer an outsider with a fresh point of view to bring about radical UN reform that is long overdue.
But mere nomination and experience is not enough to sustain Tharoor in this rat race. As he himself has admitted that he needs the support of the P-5 without which it will be very difficult for him to win this election. No UN Secretary General can work effectively without the support of all member states, especially the P-5 states.
While we are proud of Tharoor's achievements at the UN and his nomination has raised our hopes and expectations to an unbelievably high level, a lot remains to be seen as the trail leading up to the elections in October is a long and complex one. Will he win? Will he lose? Your guess is as good as mine! As for Tharoor himself, he is ready to face the consequences as he has taken up the challenge. He has claimed that even if he loses this election, he is willing to risk unemployment at the age of 50 and devote all his time to writing alone, after quitting his job at the UN. If he wins, it will at least strengthen India's role in international politics even if it does/does not get permanent membership to the Security Council!
Whatever be the result, we can only keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best!!