Tharoor may get back to his old job

Tharoor has been so focused on his race to the UN top job that he claims not have thought of a 'Plan B'.

india Updated: Oct 03, 2006 17:01 IST

For Shashi Tharoor, India's nominee in the race for UN secretary general, a return to his home country maybe an option after losing out to South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon.

But for now, he intends very much to get back to his job as UN undersecretary-general for public information, "as long as that possibility is available to me", he told reporters here after pulling out of the race as Ban Monday emerged a clear likely successor to incumbent Kofi Annan.

He was genuinely so focused on the race with every intention of winning that he didn't spend a minute thinking of a 'Plan B', but now all options are open including a return to India.

Tharoor said the UN secretary general has a great opportunity through his own personality and the "bully power" that the job offers - including the media exposure - to make a difference. "I certainly wish Mr Ban well in doing that."

About US criticism of the working of the United Nations, he had no hesitation in saying that US is indispensable to the UN. That includes US public opinion. As in a democracy, political leadership is accountable to the people, "we do need to reach the public".

Certainly, some of the things don't please everybody. "Things said against us get a wide hearing and not always entirely accurate. But the fact is we have to go out and continue the job," he said.

Tharoor said he had always been an outspoken advocate of greater transparency in the selection of the UN chief and he thought that this year's process had actually contributed, at least relatively, to an increase in transparency.

Inviting member states to submit nominations, officially encouraging candidates to present themselves to regional groups in a process of give and take, was healthy for the organisation as also the candidates who had to "reach into themselves and answer questions about the world body".

Normally in an institution like the UN, the immediate trumps, but in this process they were forced to think about the nature of the organisation, its future direction and about what they want to see at the helm.

Tharoor said he would love to see how the process can be expanded further. He for one had no difficulty with public televised debates as an NGO had tried to set up without success, but not enough candidates were willing.

"More open and more public the process is, healthier it is for the institution for then you will get a secretary general who has been tested through that process of transparency," he said.

Asked to comment on the rotation principle, Tharoor said that the UN has to have a certain amount of balance, as each one of its 192 members has a legitimate stake in its ownership, leadership and direction.

It was in the interest of big powers to have the small powers engaged and a continent to feel that every other has a possibility of getting the job.

"As far as Asia is concerned, it was certainly the time for this youthful, dynamic, transformative, progressive continent to have an opportunity to have someone at the helm of the secretariat," he said. It's also true to say that other continents will have their turn in the future.

But if Asia now has been able to produce a secretary general, there is nothing for the rest of the world to feel unhappy about. For he believed that once selected, the Asian secretary general will not be Asia's secretary general, but of the entire world.

First Published: Oct 03, 2006 11:15 IST