Shashi Tharoor has been replaced as the United Nations undersecretary-general for public information by a veteran Japanese diplomat. Tharoor has resigned from the UN, even though his contract would have run until June this year.
Vijay Nambiar, the chief of staff of the new UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, is effectively the highest-ranking Indian at UN Headquarters.
Tharoor had repeatedly said that if Ban Ki-moon had an "honourable role" for him in the UN, he would be prepared to stay on. But "if there was no meeting of minds, I will leave and continue to support the UN from outside."
However, say diplomatic sources, there was little chance of Tharoor being given a high-ranking position in the new set-up on the East River. His UN career had been strongly linked to that of the last secretary-general, Kofi Annan, and his diplomatic accomplishments were at best seen as mixed. As Annan's term came to an end, Tharoor threw in his hat as a candidate for the secretary-generalship. Though he won the backing of New Delhi, his failure to get the active support of either the United States or China made his candidacy a long shot.
Ban Ki-moon, however, is known to have a great personal interest in India. A career South Korean diplomat, his first foreign posting was in New Delhi. He likes to mention that even when they moved back to Seoul, naan retained pride of place on his family's dining room.
It is uncertain what future plans Tharoor, whose accomplishments include being the author of nine novels and nonfiction works, has.
Kiyotaka Akasaka, the Japanese diplomat who replaces Tharoor, was the deputy-director of the OECD, an organisation representing the main industrial economies. The Cambridge University-educated Akasaka represented the Japanese government at various climate change negotiations and at the World Trade Organisation.
Ban Ki-moon has retained only four of the undersecretary-generals who worked with Annan.