15 July 2007

We'll go out on a limb and express open support for Kamalesh Sharma, currently India's High Commissioner in London, for the post of Commonwealth Secretary General.

The appointment is not until November when the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (known as CHOGM) gathers in Kampala. But the competition is in full swing. Malta's Foreign Minister Michael Frendo presented himself. But then, every Maltese Foreign Minister had presented himself for other international assignments. He would stand no chance. A more prominent competitor is Malaysia's Minister of Culture Rais Yatem. As the incumbent Don McKinnon is from New Zealand and his predecessor was African, it is generally agreed on an Asian. Going through potential candidates, Kamalesh Sharma stands out as the most experienced, the most inclusive and -- for us -- the most qualified. He not only served as an outstanding diplomat representing one of the greatest world cultures and largest world democracies, but he ably served the international community as its representative during a crucial period for the peaceful transition in East Timor. His sterling performance as India's Permanent Representative at the U.N. in New York has noticeably eclipsed the routine work of his successors.

Regrettably, India's normally formidable diplomacy was in disarray over the last few years. Lending India's venerable name for exploitation by a lightweight like Shashi Tharoor was only one shortcoming. Impotence in advancing its quest for a Security Council seat -- even a rotating one -- was a glaring failure. Delay in arriving at a candidate for the Commonwealth post was a clear third.

But now that a solid name has been put forward, let's not lose more time. Ambassador Sharma is one of the best that India -- indeed Asia -- could offer. Efforts should emerge to achieve his success. Let's hope he's allowed to make it.