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India | Shashi Tharoor

The suave Indian diplomat has been with the United Nations for the last 28 years.

india Updated: Aug 29, 2006 18:11 IST

"India is not, as people keep calling it, an underdeveloped country, but rather, in the context of its history and cultural heritage, a highly developed one in an advanced state of decay."

-Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secy-Gen for Communications, Public Information

Tharoor, 50, has worked for the United Nations for the last 28 years, serving initially with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Singapore.

Since 1989, he has been a senior official at UN headquarters in New York, where, until late 1996, he was responsible for peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia.

His chances at UN

Upside:Tharoor's long association with the world body and wide contacts make him a strong contender. A non-controversial figure, he may pip others to the post as a consensus candidate.

Flipside:Despite his experience with the United Nations, Tharoor is perceived as "way too young," for the job.

He is also seen close to Kofi Annan, who has incurred the wrath of several countries for not being able to establish UN's supremacy, especially in Iraq.

Educated in Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and the United States, Tharoor, who hails from the southern state of Kerala, received his doctorate at the age of 22 from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

For nearly a year-and-a-half, Tharoor was appointed as executive assistant to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan before taking his assignment as director communications and special projects in the office of the Secretary-General in July 1998.

Four years back, he was confirmed as the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.

His specific duties include focusing on the UN's communications strategy, with particular emphasis on the effectiveness of the organisation's external message.

Tharoor's UN plans

• A much more flexible, modern and reformed United Nations.

• Making democracy a priority.

• Strengthening the international civil service.

• Focus on building issue-based coalitions to deal with specific practical problems (things like management inefficiencies, procurement policies, information technology, outsourcing) that have little to do with ideological politics.


Shashi Tharoor is the winner of numerous journalism and literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1991.

In 1998, Shashi Tharoor was awarded the Excelsior Award for excellence in literature by the Association of Indians in America (AIA) and the Network of Indian Professionals (NetIP).

He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in International Affairs from the University of Puget Sound in May 2000.

In January 1998, he was named by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as a Global Leader of Tomorrow.

His books include Reasons of State (1982), a scholarly study of Indian foreign policy; The Great Indian Novel (1989), a political satire; The Five-Dollar Smile & Other Stories (1990); a second novel, Show Business (1992), which received a front-page accolade from The New York Times Book Review and was made into a motion picture titled Bollywood; and India: From Midnight to the Millennium (1997), published on the 50th anniversary of India's independence.