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Tharoor unfazed by Pak challenge

Source: PTI
June 18, 2006 17:01 IST
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Unfazed by Pakistan's move to vie for United Nations secretary general's post, India's nominee Shashi Tharoor on Sunday said he would "welcome any qualified candidate" from that country or anywhere else as "merit" rather than passport will be the main qualification.

He also dismissed the Pakistani contention that there was no tradition of a large country fielding its candidate for the post of UN secretary general or any country seeking both the top post of the world body and permanent membership of the Security Council.

"Not at all. On the contrary, the world deserves as broad a choice as possible," Tharoor, UN under secretary general for communication and public information, told PTI when asked whether he felt Pakistan's move to field its own candidate against him could spoil his chances.

"I welcome any qualified candidate and hope there will be many more, from Pakistan or anywhere else," he said ahead of his talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior external affairs ministry officials during his three-day visit to Delhi to formulate "next steps" towards ensuring his win.

The 50-year-old noted author underlined that each of the candidates, including him, "will have to stand on our own merits and will have to have own credentials, rather than our passports as the principal qualification".

On the Pakistan Permanent Envoy to the UN Munir Akram's contention that no country seeks the secretary general's post as well as permanent membership of the Security Council, Tharoor said these two issues were "completely unconnected".

A veteran at the United Nations, he said, "The secretary generalship is about running the organisation... If I am elected, I would be accountable to 191 countries, not to any one (country)."

He emphasised that the Indian government has had a "long tradition of respect for the independence of international civil service, very much along the lines of India's respect for the neutrality of bureaucracy at home where Indian civil servants are not expected to have any commitments to any particular political party and rather to Constitution of India."

The London-born Indian said, "First of all, I do not see a particular problem with regard to any national policy that India may pursue at the United Nations because India would do so bearing in mind its own national interest whereas I would be in a position to work for the collective interest of United Nations."

A History graduate from Delhi's prestigious Stephen's College, Tharoor faces contest from at least three Asian contenders -- Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon and Sri Lanka's Jayantha Dhanapala.

On Pakistan's claim that no big country fields its candidate for the top UN post, Tharoor said "Let us not forget that we have already had secretary general from Egypt."

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