October will be the clinching month for only then will the world know who is going to be the next United Nations secretary-general and by all accounts the contest seems stiff.
Diplomat-writer Shashi Tharoor — the suave and the high-profile Indian under secretary general at the UN headquarters in New York, will have his task cut out in the coming weeks.
He is up against three other formidable Asian contenders: Sri Lanka's Jayantha Dhanapala, Thailand’s deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and South Korea’s foreign minister Ban Ki-moon.
Pakistan — never known to miss an opportunity to lob the ball back — is planning to field an opponent.
As the word spread on Wednesday about Tharoor’s impending nomination, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munim Akram told the Press, "We have been seriously considering fielding a candidate against Tharoor, but no formal decision has been taken yet."
Akram said a permanent UNSC seat may not figure high on India’s agenda now as is evident from Tharoor’s nomination. But he “did not know India’s mind on it".
The names doing the rounds are Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Akram himself.
Though it is too early to predict, reports have suggested that China is likely to pitch for Thai nominee Sathirathai.
It is not necessary for a prospective secretary-general to win all the P-5 votes, but it should be ensured that none of the five veto the candidature. Under the circumstances, China’s stand will be crucial for Tharoor.
Under the United Nations charter, the secretary-general is nominated by the 15-member Security Council and is formally elected by the 191-member General Assembly.
But India and other members of the Non-Aligned Movement are eyeing a greater role for the General Assembly instead of merely endorsing the Security Council’s choice.
Diplomatic sources said NAM leaders are planning to finalise a proposal over the next few days with the hope of bringing "a balance" between the Security Council and the General Assembly on this key issue.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times, India’s UN Ambassador Nirupam Sen said: "Once NAM finalises its proposal, it will consult other regional groups like Western and Eastern Europe.
No one can predict the final proposal now, but it will certainly outline a greater role for the General Assembly."
But as things stand, a candidate for secretary-general’s post will need at least nine out of the 15 votes from Security Council members — and no veto from any of the permanent five: US, Britain, France, Russia and China.
Over the next three months, Tharoor and the other contenders will meet UNSC members and the regional groups of the General Assembly to discuss their vision for the UN.
The Indian Mission is expected to deploy all its resources to push for Tharoor’s victory.