Skeptical perceptions

In the last two weeks, whispers and comments among close observers of the UN and the UNSG candidates have become less favorable to Shashi Tharoor

Tharoor’s oversight of DPI is often mentioned in suggestions that he simply lacks the skills to carry out the management reforms most see the next UNSG needing to implement. But the criticism doesn’t stop there. Despite his resume, when the suggestion is made that Tharoor is “more style than substance,” the typical response is a regretful nod of the head. Reportedly, that view is not uncommon among civil society, the press or even inside the UN. One reputable observer suggested that it would not surprise her if Tharoor had sought out the nomination, understanding that even if he were not appointed, he would nonetheless leave the UN on a high note having been a candidate.

The criticism is not reserved only for the candidate. From the beginning, a nomination by India has been questioned. Beyond the usual reasons, more than one prominent observer has suggested that India is “smarting” from not winning a permanent Security Council seat and recognizes the issue is off the table for the foreseeable future. Angry and determined to have affirmed its position as a global power, the government decided to shake up the campaigns by going after the top UN office. The nomination was not a move welcomed by the entire Indian government as the most strategic decision. The choice of Tharoor, though a separate issue, apparently also raised some eyebrows.

A prominent observer noted the principal impact Tharoor’s nomination has had is hurting the otherwise viable campaign of Sri Lanka’s Jayantha Dhanapala, who was recently called the race’s front runner by Foreign Policy magazine. Another suggested that India’s move will only result in a ripple effect, provoking Pakistan, Bangladesh and Singapore to nominate their own candidates. (Goh’s entry into the race of course would negate ASEAN’s unity in backing Surakiart.) The overall perception is that India is not seen as acting in the regional interest of securing the post.

The criticism may appear harsh. If it was not shared by or readily agreed with by several sources, it could be chalked up to individual perceptions. That it was not an isolated view prompts closer inspection.

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