"The race is winnable" Shashi Tharoor, 50, currently UN under-secretary-general, is India's nominee for the post of UN Secretary-General. He spoke to Managing Editors Raj Chengappa and Shankkar Aiyar about his prospects. Excerpts:
Q. Will nominating you to the secretary-generalship diminish India's chances of a permanent seat in the UN Security Council?
A. There is no real connection between the problem of the Security Council seat and my nomination. The world sees that the UN represents the geo-political realities of 1945 and not of 2006. So there has been a feeling for some time that it needs to be reformed and brought up to date. About the permanent seat, the issue has been discussed since 1992, and there hasn't been an agreement on a formula about how much to expand the Council by, whether both permanent and non-permanent categories should be expanded, which parts of the world should be taken. I am sure India will continue its efforts, but the secretary-generalship issue will be over soon.
Q. You were involved with conflict resolution in Bosnia in the early '90s. What went wrong?
A. It was a problem of the UN being thrust into a situation where the Security Council members were divided about both diagnosis and prescription. We tried to do peacekeeping when there was no peace to keep. We wrote a report to the secretary-general in 1992 on the suitability of peacekeeping in Bosnia and said the situation was not right. But the Security Council decided to go ahead as there was no other option.
Q. On the Kashmir issue critics doubt your impartiality and also point out that India has not respected UN resolutions on it.
A. It has been long since Kashmir occupied centrestage at the UN. The issue, as the present secretary-general has said, is being pursued bilaterally. The best thing for the UN would be to applaud the process from the sidelines. So the views of the secretary-general are essentially irrelevant.
Q. Many say that the UN works only when the US wants it to work. And that the UN has basically been reduced to a grumbling windbag.
A. Not really. Often, the contribution of others has been decisive. It's not just about one power. The UN has to work with everyone. The world is full of problems that don't come with passports. Terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are not the only problems-climate change, human rights, refugee movements and drug trafficking go beyond boundaries.
Q. How do you rate your chances?
A. Let's look at the race as winnable and give it our best shot.