India beats China, bags seat in UN unit

United Nations: In a significant victory, India has been elected to the United Nations` Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), defeating China in a direct fight for the lone seat from the Asia-Pacific region and returning to this powerful external oversight body after a gap of 35 years.

India`s permanent representative to the UN offices in Geneva, A Gopinathan defeated Zhang Yan, China`s Ambassador in New Delhi, to assume a place on the JIU for a five-year term starting on January 1, 2013.

India won with a clear majority of 106 votes out of the 183 cast, while China got 77 votes. India has served only once on the JIU 35 years ago from 1968 to 1977.

The JIU election was the first time ever that India was locked in a "direct contest" with China in the UN General Assembly. "We are thrilled. The important thing is that this was a straight contest because it involves a country which is the world`s second largest economy and which has growing diplomatic reach," India`s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri told PTI.

A visibly beaming Puri said he was "very confident" about the country`s chances as it had a "good candidate" and also because of "India`s standing" at the multilateral body.

Countries are elected to the JIU for five years and typically extend their term for another five years.
China had held its seat for 10 years and its term was to expire in December 2012. It was assumed that China would not seek to re-contest for the post. But "low and behold, they decided to put up their Ambassador in Delhi (for the JIU election). This is even more significant," an official at the Indian mission to the UN said.

Yan was recently embroiled in a controversy when he told an Indian journalist in New Delhi to "shut up" after the scribe asked the ambassador to comment on a map of India, distributed by a state-owned Chinese firm, that did not show some parts of Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh in the Indian territory.
"The big countries want to make permanent membership of the JIU also. India has been able to challenge that," he said.

Puri said winning the election "is of very high importance as JIU is an important body. But the fact that we can contest an election of this kind and win will hopefully provide assurance to my friends and colleagues at headquarters that we need not be so risk averse."

While India won by a comfortable margin, officials at the Indian mission said China had been using its "margin of persuasion" as well as its "fairly strong electoral machine" to garner votes in its favour. India on its part too used a "counter-margin of persuasion," the official added.

The JIU is an independent external oversight body of the United Nations system, mandated to conduct evaluations, inspections and investigations system-wide. It is composed of not more than 11 Inspectors serving for a term of five years, renewable once.

The election was for the appointment of an Inspector from Asia, for a term starting on January 1 2013, on the completion of the term of an Inspector that was secured by China in 2003 and will be held by them for 10 years till 2012. The election to the UN body is the latest in a series of wins that India has been adding to its UN resume.

Beginning with its election to the UN Security Council last year where it got a record 187 votes, India has been getting elected to key UN organs in the past one year.

Puri had said India`s win at the Security Council was not a "flash in the pan," citing its win at bodies like the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, ECOSOC, Human Rights Council and the International Law Commission.

The other election that Puri has his eyes and mind on is for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

Indian mission officials said the "talk at the General Assembly" is that why is India not cashing in on its winning streak and why is it waiting to "put a short resolution, which has 84 signatories, on Security Council reforms into an L document," which is a draft UN document meant for limited distribution.

As the JIU election was underway in the 193-member General Assembly, Puri was in constant touch with Gopinathan through email "calming his nerves" and giving him minute-by-minute information about the elections.

Gopinathan was India`s Deputy Permanent Representative in New York from January 2002 to September 2005. He has also served as Joint Secretary (UN) from August 1997 to December 2001 at the Ministry of External Affairs.

In a pamphlet distributed extensively as part of its global campaign for the election, India touted Gopinathan`s credentials saying, "Having devoted almost half of his diplomatic career to UN-related work, ambassador Gopinathan`s extensive knowledge and wide experience across the UN system will enable him to make important and effective contributions to the work of the Joint Inspection Unit and help bring about improvements in the UN system in the areas of oversight and governance, an objective shared by all UN member states."

It went on to say that "in the current global climate of persisting economic crisis, the need for realising greater `value for money` by streamlining the functioning of the UN and its specialised agencies, improving the quality of services and systems of delivery and ensuring optimal synergy and co- ordination within the UN system cannot be over-emphasised."