Shashi Tharoor blames United States, India for his failed bid to become UN Secretary-General

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Tharoor bares all 10 years after he came second in his bid.

A July 15, 2013, file photo of Shashi Tharoor. Credit: PIB, GOI

NEW YORK: Indian politician and author Shashi Tharoor, who came second in his race to become the United Nations Secretary-General, in 2006, behind Ban Ki-Moon, has laid the blame on the United States, and India’s lackadaisical approach to his candidature, for his failed bid, and not China – one of the five permanent members of the Security Council who hold veto power – thwarting it.

Writing an exclusive story for Open magazine, a current affairs and features magazine in India, Tharoor revealed that, “I believe the time has come, a decade on, to set the record straight”.

Tharoor’s tell-all is also aimed to quash the ridiculous allegation by a Pakistani envoy, Syed Mushahid Hussain, who had pompously pronounced recently that “if India had settled the Kashmir issue, Shashi Tharoor would be Secretary-General today.”

Tharoor revealed that China had nothing to do with his not becoming the top boss at the UN, and on the contrary had assured support for him, as in 2006 a candidate from Asia was favored to win the election.

The Secretary-General’s position cannot be held by any of the Permanent Members of the Security Council. Traditionally, the position has gone to candidates from small nations. The five members of the Council – US, UK, Russia, France and China – have veto power to halt any candidature.

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The niggling worry that a successful bid by him could scuttle India’s bid for permanent membership in the Security Council was brushed aside by the then prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, who told Tharoor said that it was not an imminent issue – which also reveals the thinking of the UPA Govt. on the hard climb to membership in the Security Council.

Tharoor puts it succinctly that though the idea to project him for the position caught him by surprise and was a late bid by India, he nevertheless was more than well-qualified for the job. He writes:

“…in some respects my entire working life had seemed like a preparation for the job. In my nearly three decades at the UN, I had developed an unusually varied experience in all the key areas a Secretary-General would need to handle—humanitarian, with 11 years at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, including handling the complex issues of refugees rescued at sea; political, having dealt with high-level diplomats and politicians in my seven years of peace-keeping at the end of the Cold War, particularly during my stewardship of the UN operations in the former Yugoslavia; administrative, having headed the UN’s largest Department, Public Information, with more than 800 staff in 77 offices worldwide, and led successful efforts for reform, streamlining budgets while motivating staff; and media relations, having served as the Secretary-General’s Director of Communications and then as Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. In addition, I spoke both the UN’s working languages, English and French, fluently, and having spent four years in the Secretary- General’s Executive Office, was thoroughly familiar with the kinds of problems and issues the UN chief dealt with on a daily basis. At the risk of immodesty, I could, as the expression goes, hit the ground running.”

Tharoor, one of the most eloquent public speakers India has ever produced – perhaps the best ever, detailed that despite India’s excellent relations with the Bush administration, president George W. Bush was never apprised of his candidature, until it was too late. The task to spearhead the US effort to herald in the new successor to Kofi Annan was left to the then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and neo-conservative ideologue who had been appointed UN Ambassador, John Bolton.

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According to Tharoor, the US did not want him as the new Secretary-General because of their keen interest to strengthen bilateral relations with South Korea and stubbornness to stop another ‘strong’ outspoken candidate like Annan, to get the job. Also, he blames India for its lackadaisical approach to his candidature, which led to US not taking it up seriously enough.

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US killed Tharoor’s candidature by vetoing him.

Tharoor writes of his failure:

“Three factors—the bilateral relationship with Korea, a perception of a lack of conviction on India’s part, and the Bush Administration’s desire not to repeat the Kofi Annan experiment of a ‘strong’ Secretary-General— combined to ensure the US veto that scuttled my candidacy.”

Read the full story in Open magazine here:

(Sujeet Rajan is Editor-in-Chief, The American Bazaar. Follow him @SujeetRajan1)