October 11, 2011

Pakistan tries for UN Security Council, faces unexpected block, but not from India

Indrani BagchiIndrani Bagchi, TNN | Oct 11, 2011, 04.11AM IST
A number of Pakistanis are unsure if it will get a non-permanent UNSC seat despite a seemingly easy field, because many believe the US is propping up the opposition against Pakistan.

NEW DELHI: In another 10 days, Pakistan will be asking for votes from 192 countries for a two-year seat in the UN Security Council for 2012-2014, and despite an easy field, it anticipates difficulties, not from India, but the US. 

In ordinary circumstances, Pakistan would have had it fairly easy. This year too, the opposition field looks weak enough. Fiji, which was a claimant for the Asian seat, withdrew recently in favour of Pakistan. Pakistan now has only one opposing candidate, Kyrgyzstan. A tiny country, Kyrgyzstan has barely 20 missions in the world and should not pose any real threat to Pakistan. 

Sources say Pakistan should have little problem getting the required 128 votes from the UN General Assembly. But a number of Pakistanis are unsure, because many believe the US is propping up the opposition against Pakistan. 

India will support Kyrgyzstan, under a reciprocal deal reached with Bishkek during India's own lobbying for a non-permanent seat in 2010. The deal apart, Indians and Pakistanis generally get along fairly well at multilateral institutions, except when it comes to issues like Kashmir. On many global issues, India and Pakistan not only vote with each other, but also support each other. During India's vote, Pakistan did not say that it had supported India, yet many Indian diplomats said they had seen the Pakistani ballot paper with "India" written on it. India won with a massive 187 votes. 

Munir Akram, who represented Pakistan as UN ambassador several times, wrote on Sunday that India's opposition would have little effect on Pakistan's chances. But he suspects that the US may be trying to nix Pakistan's chances in the UN Security Council. "At the UN, most astute observers are convinced that the Kyrgyz bid has been encouraged, if not inspired, by the US. It is reasoned that the US does not want Pakistan to have a seat on the Security Council during the critical endgame in Afghanistan or to provide it a platform to raise difficult issues... Unlike India, the US has the influence to significantly complicate Pakistan's bid for the Security Council seat. Some years ago, Africa's endorsed candidate, Sudan, was defeated by the last-minute US-sponsored candidature of Mauritius." 

Kyrgyzstan does not set the UN on fire, though they apparently have a large delegation working the diplomatic network in Turtle Bay. But this year, Pakistan is not on the global favourite list -- hosting Osama bin Laden and its overt reluctance to give up terrorism as an instrument of state policy does not help matters for Islamabad. Yet Kyrgyzstan has refused to give up its candidature for Pakistan, and promised to see this battle through to the bitter end. Surprised, many Pakistanis believe the responsibility for this could lie with the US. 

Akram noted the US had yet to support Pakistan publicly, though Indian diplomats say that could change in the days ahead. US has a key base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, which is used for the war in Afghanistan. America is also expanding activities in the tiny Central Asian country.

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