Monday, October 09, 2006

Shashi Tharoor : Lost Opportunity

Its been exactly one week since Shashi Tharoor pulled out of the race for the UN General Secretary thus handing a clear victory to Mr Moon of South Korea (As of yesterday the UNSC had already recommended his name to the UN General Assembly). The apathy shown by the Government of Indian (GI) to his bid was evident and extremely frustrating. When Nehru was the PM in mid-50s, he went all out to ensure that VijayaLakshmi Pandit became the first Woman President of the UN General Assembly. This year the honorable Dr. Singh skipped the UN Session but found it important to attend "the last rites of NAM" !!

Mr Tharoor was the only candidate among the 6 to have a vast experience working at the UN level. He has had an impeccable record for the last 28 years and was one of Kofi Annan's right hand man. I was a regular reader of his writings in the Indian Express till sometime ago. I remember seeing him being interviewed by Barkha Dutt on NDTV shortly after he announced his desire to contest. One thing became clear, the more arrogant and aggressive Ms Dutt became the more sharp and straight came the answers. Mr Tharoor is his articulate style just took one question at a time and threw her and her seemingly foolish, stupid, childish behavior out of the door. Till date I have no clue what she was trying to achieve.

A few things that come to my mind for the failure of Mr Tharoor not being able to clinch the title:
1) He is Mallu : The current Malyali lobby is so weak that he was never going to get through the ranks of Indian Government officials. Had he been a Bengali or of the Gandhi clan it would have been a different GI approach. Less than 1% of Political and Corporate India knew who Shashi Tharoor is and what he was about to achieve.
2) He has been a member of the UN and Kofi Annan's Man : There is a general feeling that person who has risen from the very ranks of the UN is incompetent to lead for lack of his vision for Newer Reforms. (Probably these are the reasons Lateral Recruits earn more than present employees !!) Annan was never the first choice to the post and recently has had a fall-out with the US.
3) North Korea V/S US : US has been an ardent supporter of South Korea (strategic and financial reasons) and a fierce critic of North (The So-Called "Axis of Evil" starts at North Korea and ends in Iran, with the US being unsure whether Pakistan be included in the same or otherwise). The latest Nuclear threat (and the actual testing of N-Bomb) from North (DPRK) made Moon's succession to the post a virtual certainty. Note : Surprisingly China of all had pledged its support to any candidate from Asia which was a welcome sign.
4) India's Ohh-So-Far Bid for a Permanent Membership of the UNSC : India has long been longing for a permanent seat in the UNSC along with Germany and Japan. We have never been close to getting there nor still do not seem to be in any position to get there. Even if we do in the long run, VETO may not a be part of the package which would confine us to powers equivalent to that enjoyed by Fakruddhin Ali Ahmed when IG was heading GI.
5) Bottom Line : The UN needs Money to run and Korea provided ample of what India lacked. Korea has been pouring in $ all over Africa to show its solidarity for World Peace and Health for the half of this decade. We would never have matched that though Tharoor as a candidate was much more than a match for Moon.

One positive that I see in this failure is that Mr Tharoor would be able to devote more time to Writing than ever before (He probably would be relieved of his duties come 2007). Position of Foreign Secretary is not in the offering anytime soon (besides his last name is not Menon !! ) and that of External Affairs might not be his cup of tea keeping his mind his "affinity" for politics and politicians alike. There was a chance India might have won a couple of Nobel Prizes in Literature post Tagore. We lost a chance by electing BJP/Vajpayee to the PM's seat.
Now we do have a chance to gain one more.


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