15 February 2005

Some strange things must be happening on the way from New Delhi. The world's largest democracy and solid U.N. supporter has been sending recent signals of dissatisfaction -- discreet, yet published in mainstream media. In December, there was an intriguing comment about the Secretary General and "some manipulators" amongst his team. This month, there was a more open editorial in the prestigious Times of India. It said: "Kofi Annan who is no stranger to rejection from India was politely informed that his energies were better applied elsewhere. New Delhi's reasons for refusing foreign aid as well as stellar visits go beyond the argument that India can go it alone. Some of the disaster zones in India are strategically important and it is unlikely that India would want to jeopardize important security conditions for the sake of a foreign VIP visit." That seemed fairly usual until the paper added another consideration that "India has never really considered Annan to be well-disposed to it."

These are puzzling words considering that none other than Annan's Under Secretary General for Communications and Media (or whatever the title is now) was just on home leave in India. Additionally, at least two other Indians at the Under Secretary General level, Ambassador Sharma and Nittin Desai, served in Timor Leste and Information Technology respectively. If you asked any U.N. staffer he or she will immediately convey the impression that Annan's administration mainly favoured Indians and some selected Pakistanis.

There must have been some reason for this approval. Either officials in Delhi are not adequately calculating the number of their (very qualified) staff or they dismiss their currently senior Indians within the Secretariat as not adequately representative. Otherwise, maybe Secretary General Annan has been led to miscalculate with Indians. Maybe India, which is earnestly working for a seat in a restructured Security Council, does not wish to have any misunderstanding about its real no-nonsense targets. No Indian should divert attention from the priority of getting a Security Council permanent seat. Furthermore, the candidates they put for senior posts are their real candidates; no substitutes, please. In an interesting aside, the Delhi main paper commended India for sending across a firm message to Kofi Annan "and his troupe of media manipulators." Now, whom would they mean?