'India not unwilling backer of Lagarde'

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
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  • Updated: Jun 30, 2011 01:04 IST

India did come around in the end and supported Christine Lagarde as the next IMF chief and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was among the first to congratulate her. But did India fall in line because it ran out of options? 

Mukherjee sought to dispel any such impression saying, "We had all along maintained that we would be part of consensus building and the candidate should be chosen on the basis of merit." 

"She is eminently suited (for the position)," Mukherjee said, adding hastily, that "(Mexican candidate Agustin) Carstens was also suited." But India had to choose one, and it went with Lagarde. Mukherjee was addressing a news briefing at the end of a two-day visit to Washington for the second India-US Financial and Economic Partnership talks, with his US counterpart Timothy Geithner. 

The finance minister also met national security advisor Tom Donilon and secretary of state Hillary Clinton. They discussed Pakistan, Afghanistan and the neighbourhood. Mukherjee briefed them about the resumed dialogue with Pakistan. 

Questions about India's stand on the IMF selection process, however, dogged Mukherjee throughout his visit. Mukherjee ducked the question, as did Geithner. India had, in the run up to the selection, taken a position with Brazil, China and South Africa - the Brics countries - that the historical monopoly of Europe over the top job at the IMF must end. 

The four countries did try to find a candidate to put up against Lagarde. India also sought to make the selection process more transparent. 

It could make no headway on both fronts. In the end, India was among the four countries that took the lead in ensuring Lagarde's selection by consensus. 

"India voted for Lagarde at the straw poll ahead of the selection," said Meera Shanker, Indian ambassador to the US. 

Having ended that battle badly, India said it will continue to push for reforms at the Fund. 

In his note to the new IMF chief, Mukherjee said, "A robust and sustained global economic recovery is a priority for all of us, as is the task of carrying forward the process of reform..."


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