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Ministry of External Affairs Official Spokesperson announcement of the candidature of Mr. Shashi Tharoor for UN Secretary General and response to questions on India-US talks on civil nuclear cooperation

New Delhi
June 15, 2006 

Official Spokesperson: Good Evening. I have a number of issues from my side to talk about. First, an announcement…

India strongly supports the principle of regional rotation under which the next Secretary General of the United Nations should be from Asia. The Asian Group within the UN had approached other Groups, seeking their support for this principle, and the African Group has already confirmed its support. We hope that other regional groups would also articulate support for the rotational principle. 

India also believes that a prospective UN Secretary General should have impeccable credentials, be acceptable to the broadest possible membership of the UN and have a strong commitment to the reform of the UN and the interests of the developing countries. 

It is in this framework that India has decided to announce the candidature of Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information at the United Nations. Mr. Tharoor, an Indian national, is a distinguished son of Asia, who has served the UN in diverse capacities since 1978. During his long innings at the UN, Mr. Tharoor has held a number of key positions in various areas including peacekeeping, UNHCR and UN’s communications strategy, with particular responsibility for ensuring the coherence and effectiveness of the United Nations’ external message. Mr. Tharoor has been closely involved in the process of the reform of the United Nations. 

Mr. Tharoor is a well-known writer. He is the author of eight books, as well as numerous articles, op-eds and literary reviews in a wide range of publications. He is also the recipient of several journalism and literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. 

In January 1998, Mr. Tharoor, was named by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as a “Global Leader of Tomorrow”. Mr. Tharoor is an elected Fellow of the New York Institute of the Humanities and a member of the Advisory Board of the Indo-American Arts Council. 

Born in London in 1956. Mr. Tharoor was educated in India and the United States, completing a PhD in 1978 at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he also earned two Master’s Degrees. He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in International Affairs by the University of Puget Sound, United States. 

Mr. Shashi Tharoor’s internationally acclaimed stature and experience make him eminently suitable to become the next Secretary General of the United Nations. 

India has informed, through diplomatic channels, other member states of the United Nations of its nomination of Mr. Shashi Tharoor’s candidature and requested their support. 

Question: So does that mean that India is no longer interested in a seat in the UN Security Council? 

Official Spokesperson:
They are separate issues and it is incorrect to perceive India’s support for one as dilution of our commitment to the other. India is a founder member of the United Nations and we have consistently and significantly contributed to all aspects of its functioning. India is strongly committed to comprehensive reforms of the United Nations and believes that the reform and expansion of the Security Council in both permanent and non-permanent categories is central to the process of UN reforms. As far as that is concerned there is widespread and growing appreciation of India’s impeccable credentials to become a permanent member of the Security Council. There has been a steady accretion of support in our favor since the candidature was announced in 1994. India remains committed, I may mention, to the G-4 Initiative and continues a policy of engagement of G-4 and other member states to achieve the objective of UN reform. India’s nomination of Mr. Shashi Tharoor for the post of UN Secretary General is based on a commitment to rotational principle under which the next Secretary General should be from Asia and Mr. Tharoor’s internationally acclaimed stature, achievements and experience. 

Question: Has there been any discussion with any member of the P-5 in advance of this? 

Official Spokesperson: We have taken up this issue of seeking support for the candidature of Mr. Tharoor through diplomatic channels with all member countries of the United Nations. 

Question: Any feedback from China? 

Official Spokesperson: I do not have feedback from individual countries. Certainly, our Missions are actively seeking support of the member countries of the UN. 

Question: There are a number of candidates from Asia. 

Official Spokesperson:
Yes there are. 

Question: Will it not create problems because ASEAN also has its own candidate? 

Official Spokesperson: All these considerations - pros and cons - have obviously been taken into consideration by the government in deciding to support Mr. Tharoor’s candidature. 

Question: What is in it for India? 

Official Spokesperson:
I think it is a matter of pride for a son of India, a son of Asia to be the UN Secretary General. 

Question: When are the elections supposed to be held? 

Official Spokesperson: If I am not wrong, this matter usually comes up before the General Assembly in October and carries on but the process involves the Security Council also making a list of the candidates by, I think, mid July. 

Question: Is it going to be one name or they have more names? 

Official Spokesperson:
Traditionally, the Security Council recommends one name. 

Question: Isn’t he perceived to be too close to Mr. Kofi Annan…US support…

Official Spokesperson:
These are perceptions you may have or somebody else may have. As far as we are concerned, we have based our support for his candidature on his impeccable credentials, on his very considerable achievements and on his tremendous experience within the United Nations. 

Question: Has any Indian ever been nominated? 

Official Spokesperson: No Indian has held that office. 

Question: Nominated…

Official Spokesperson:
I do not think so. 

Question: Talks between India and US concluded yesterday. What was the result? 

Official Spokesperson: Yes, the talks were held for three days. Let me give you the framework of these discussions. If you recall, Foreign Secretary had met his counterpart Nicholas Burns in London in end-May 2006 for a review of progress in finalizing the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. The Indian side had also provided its counter-draft of the “123 Agreement” or the bilateral agreement on peaceful uses of nuclear energy, for consideration of the US side. This was in response to an initial draft text that had been handed over to the Indian side, during Foreign Secretary’s earlier visit to Washington in March 2006. 

The Indian counter-draft takes as its staring point, the Indo-US Joint Statement of July 18, 2006 and the elements contained in India’s Separation Plan, which was laid on the table of the Houses of Parliament on May 11. 

Foreign Secretary and Mr. Burns had agreed in London that a US negotiating team would visit India at an early date in order to carry forward our negotiations on the draft with a view to achieving an agreed text. This would enable the two sides to conclude the “123 Agreement” once the US Congress has passed appropriate legislation enabling full civilian nuclear energy cooperation between India and the US. 

The two negotiating teams held intensive discussions over three days, from June 12-14, 2006 and were able to narrow their differences on a number of draft provisions of the proposed agreement. As a result of their detailed discussions, the officials of the two sides now have a much better appreciation of their respective legal and political positions. Pending issues will now require internal consultations on both sides with a view to jointly formulating a draft which meets with the approval of both sides. 

The two sides have agreed to meet at an early date once their follow-up internal consultations have been completed. 

It may be mentioned that the two sides covered a range of issues in their discussions in a forward looking and constructive spirit. The progress we have achieved so far makes us confident that we would be able to arrive at a text that conforms to our well-known positions, which are reflected in the July 18 Joint Statement and in India’s Separation Plan. 

Question: Since you talked of political issues, was there any sense of when the Congress is going to bring any statement or legislation…

Official Spokesperson:
That is a matter of the US Congress and its own dynamics. I was talking of the political and legal issues involved in the draft 123 Agreement.