"One day, there will be a post- UN life, and then I hope to find the time to explore these ideas on paper!" Shashi Tharoor once said. But that day may become more distant if he could succeed Kofi Annan as United Nations secretary general later this year.
India Thursday officially named Tharoor as its candidate for the UN top post, based on "his impeccable credentials," saying it will be a pride of both India and Asia if Tharoor is elected the UN top leader.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs Thursday said India had received support from African countries for the geographical rotation formula and hoped this would be accepted by others as well.
However, the Indian opposition issued a statement against the Indian government's nomination of Tharoor. It said that India is now an emerging global power and strong candidate for a permanent seat with a veto on the UN Security Council.
"Hence it will be wholly inappropriate and inconsistent with India's global importance to have an Indian as the Secretary General of the United Nations. The post should go to the small Asian nations," said the opposition parties in the statement.
As UN under secretary general for Communications and Public Information now, Tharoor, the author of eight books in English, said he has far more book ideas than the time to write. Tharoor is the winner of several journalism and literary awards, which include a Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1991 and the Excelsior Award for excellence in literature in 1998 presented by the Association of Indians in America and the Network of Indian Professionals.
In 2001, Tharoor said: "India has always mattered to me, and in my writing, I'd like to matter to India -- or at least to my Indian readers."
In September last year, when he visited Delhi, Tharoor refused to comment whether he would be a possible contender for the top job in the world body, he said, "Well, its too early to say anything on that now."
The Indian Express Thursday said Tharoor won support for his bid from the Government after meetings last April with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi and National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan.
Born in London in 1956 and educated in India and the United States where he got his doctorate degree at the age of 22 from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Tharoor started his UN career in 1978 at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
As a senior official at the UN headquarters in New York since October 1989, Tharoor was responsible for peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia, then an executive assistant to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan from January 1997 to July 1998 before being appointed as director of Communications and Special Projects in the office of the secretary general.
In January 2001, he was appointed as interim head of the Department of Public Information and then under secretary general for Communications and Public Information one year later, in charge of UN communications strategy.
The United States and major world powers are expected to back India's nomination of Tharoor as New Delhi had informal consultations with major powers which provided a positive feedback, according to Times of India.
Tharoor is reportedly coming back to New Delhi from New York later this week to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Asked if his candidature would result in the diminution of India's bid for a seat in the UN Security Council, Tharoor said "the two are not connected. India's bid for UNSC membership is a long term goal that is linked to overall UN reform."
If elected, 50-year-old Tharoor will be the first Indian and the second Asian after U Thant of Burma and the youngest to head the world body.
"Tharoor is well-qualified and the most deserving candidate, hence he has a fair chance of carrying the day," E. Ahamed, minister of state for external affairs of India, said.
However, the Times of India said, UN experts and staff foresee three hurdles ahead of Tharoor.
Firstly, the UN secretary general's post has invariably gone to a candidate from a small or middle power. It will be the first time a large country like India will be proposing a candidate. While Kofi Annan is from Ghana, his predecessors were from Egypt, Peru, Austria, Burma, Sweden and Norway.
Secondly, some analysts see Tharoor's reported closeness to Annan, and the fact that he belongs to the existing UN establishment as another handicap. There are sayings that the UN top man should be a fresh face, with fresh ideas, untouched by the UN system.
Thirdly, observers said that the formal endorsement by India has to be seen in the backdrop of a lot of behind-the-scene activities already taking place for the last several months involving the candidatures of Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka and Banki Moon of South Korea and Surakiart Sathirathai of Thailand.