Shashi Tharoor, India's candidate for the post of UN secretary general, on Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other political leaders as New Delhi maps a strategy to win the widest possible support for pushing the diplomat-author's candidature for the world body's top job.
Singh met Tharoor at his 7 Race Course Road official residence after the latter flew in New Delhi on Sunday, only days after the external affairs ministry announced it would support the under secretary-general as a candidate to replace Kofi Annan, whose term expires at the end of the year.
The two analysed in detail the likelihood of the five permanent members - the US, Britain, France, China and Russia - supporting the Indian candidate for the UN's most coveted job.
The possibility of China playing the spoiler also came up for discussions, but it was agreed that when it came to the crunch Beijing will not oppose Tharoor's bid because of growing ties with New Delhi, knowledgeable sources said.
The electoral college for the election of secretary-general consists of the five permanent members and 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council.
Tharoor, UN undersecretary general for communication and public information who has worked with the organisation for 28 years, expressed his optimism about the P-5 backing his candidature - a point he made to some editors over lunch on Monday.
He said he was 'encouraged' by the response he has got and Indian officials said they endorsed his candidature only after sounding out major powers, none of who had explicitly opposed his nomination.
Tharoor also met Communist Party of India-Marxist leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury and discussed a range of global issues, including UN reforms.
The issue of Pakistan putting up its own candidate for the UN top job was also discussed between Tharoor and other senior diplomats, including KC Singh, additional secretary in the external affairs ministry.
Earlier, Tharoor had dismissed suggestions about the possibility of a likely Pakistani candidate spoiling his chances, saying that he would "welcome any qualified candidate" from that country or anywhere else as 'merit' rather than passport would be the deciding qualification.
"The world deserves as broad a choice as possible. I welcome any qualified candidate and hope there will be many more, from Pakistan or anywhere else," an upbeat Tharoor had told reporters.
Tharoor has a reasonable chance of winning the UN top job as it is widely agreed that it is the turn of an Asian candidate at the UN high table. There are three other Asian contenders - Sri Lanka's Jayantha Dhanapala, Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirthai and South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon - in the fray.
Ahead of his talks with Manmohan Singh, the 50-year-old Tharoor - an international columnist and author of several books - had asserted that any candidate "will have to stand on our own merits and will have to have own credentials, rather than our passports as the principal qualification".
New Delhi has sought to dispel the impression that by announcing Tharoor's candidature, it was giving up its bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
"These are two separate issues and it is incorrect to perceive India's support to one will dilute commitment to the other," external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna had told reporters in response to a question last week.