13 October 2006

Shashi Tharoor - What Went Wrong?

Since we have adequately covered the Sai Baba angle on the Shashi Tharoor UN appointment saga, we felt that an editorial by a respected Indian journalist would help clarify matters and make it easier to understand why Tharoor's candidature was flawed from the beginning:

Shashi Tharoor's defeat was staring at Govt's face

- G. Parthasarathy

"The Manmohan Singh Government seems to have become increasingly accident prone in recent days. Ill-considered actions inevitably lead to disastrous results. We have seen the brazen and arrogant Pakistani reaction to our concerns about the involvement of Pakistan-based terrorist groups, the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed in the 7/11 Mumbai bomb blasts. This was inevitable following ill-advised statements in Havana suggesting that Pakistan, like India, is a 'victim of terrorism' and the decision to set up a joint mechanism to deal with terrorism. Coming close on the heels of this setback, is yet another major international rebuff for India, with its candidate for the post of UN Secretary General, Shashi Tharoor, being forced to acknowledge defeat and withdraw his candidature.

"Tharoor found that he had consistently trailed behind his South Korean rival Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon in 'straw polls' of the 15 UN Security Council members. He eventually had his candidature rejected and killed by opposition from a Permanent Member of the Security Council. Professional diplomats in South Block with years of experience of the UN had, from the very outset, warned that Tharoor's candidature was doomed to failure. The candidature was announced with no prior consultations with our permanent mission to the UN and without consultations with even a single permanent member of the UN Security Council. Moreover, past experience has shown that any candidate who does not enjoy the support of either the US or China will find that the US and China will make common cause behind the scenes, to have him defeated. It was quite evident following Manmohan Singh's visit to St Petersburg that even a traditional friend like Russia was unwilling to publicly support Tharoor's candidature.

"When President Bush made it clear that he favoured a candidate from East Asia, it should have been evident that the Americans would not, in an ultimate analysis, back Tharoor. Tharoor would have been well advised to back off when he received only eight out of 15 positive votes in the third "straw poll". He instead chose to brazen it out and had to be forced out of the reckoning in the fourth poll when he faced a veto from a permanent member of the Security Council, with little doubt now that his candidature was killed by American opposition. It could, of course, be argued that no great harm has been caused by this episode. This would be a serious error of judgement. It took us nearly a decade to recover from the trouncing we received by 142 votes to 40 when we challenged Japan for a seat to the UN Security Council in 1996.

"Across the world, the word will go around that when push came to shove the Americans preferred to back a traditional ally, rather than a country they claim is a new found "strategic partner". And it will be noted that the Americans have had intensive backroom consultation with the Chinese on this issue, much to the embarrassment of India. What is most regrettable about this setback is that it comes after a decade of patient diplomacy had resulted in a new international profile for India with its membership of the East Asia Summit, its participation as a partner with major industrial powers at G-8 Summits, the establishment of the South Africa, Brazil, India Strategic Triangle and its resounding success in obtaining support this year for election to the UN Human Rights Commission.

"It is fashionable in the present dispensation for Government's cheer leaders in the media and elsewhere to ridicule the views of those with specialised experience in fields like diplomacy, national security or nuclear energy by labelling their views as being 'outdated' and not in consonance with the 'out-of-the-box' thinking that is supposed to lead to greater domestic and international glory for the country. One hopes that the Tharoor debacle will lead to the Government carefully weighing the pros and cons of its actions, rather than rushing to embrace 'out-of-the-box' initiatives in foreign policy-initiatives that can only embarrass the country."

Related articles:

Tharoor UN Nomination Flops
Shashi Tharoor: The Sai Baba Connection
Even More Tharoor Tribulations
Rising Opposition To Shashi Tharoor
Vajpayee Endorses Shashi Tharoor
Rationalists Boo Shashi Tharoor
Shashi Tharoor: Next UN Sec-Gen?

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