We are still awash in news of Shashi's announcement. But something has struck us. UNSG.org referred to it as the "long anticipated announcement". Who anticipated this and why? And, indeed, how?
First, UN insiders seem to have believed that Shashi was going to run. It was apparent that he had been campaigning. But when was he going to announce?
Second, why? He is probably the most articulate of the UN insiders. If Kofi Annan is to be the model of a UNSG — a career UN diplomat — then Shashi is, without question, the most superior specimen of that model. Indeed, the argument for Shashi's candidacy will be that he is the most qualified individual for the position. This differed somewhat from the arguments for Ban Ki-moon and Sathirathai, both of whom seemed to be arguing that they, as perhaps the most talented representatives of their countries, were somehow qualified for the position. Is Ban Ki-moon in any way extraordinary? Perhaps, but not in the same way that Shashi is.
But the UN is the United Nations. So one question was which Nation would step forth and recommend him for the position? And to what extent will Shashi be viewed in his own right or as an Indian?
Shashi will be arguing that he is just a person who happens to be Indian. And the Indians appear to be arguing for an Indian candidate. And, so far, the newspapers are with the Indian interpretation. Just look at some titles: "India Sets Aim at the UN's Top Job," "India Makes a Move," or "Pak Challenges India for Top Job."
This has been a fundamental part of the coverage of the race in Bangkok or Seoul also. The Bangkok Post is reporting that "India" is running against them. And it is clear when "India" is using the full power of its diplomatic service to push Shashi. Because Shashi is the right man? He may well be. But when the Spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs says:
It's a matter of pride if a son of India and son of Asia becomes United Nations Secretary-General.
And they are willing to spend millions of dollars to make it happen. It will certainly help Shashi to have those resources. But ultimately, it may hurt him to be the Indian champion in this race. It will make it harder for the job for his own skills rather than because India's time has come — like South Korea, Thailand, or, indeed, Asia.