India beats China in UN election

United Nations : In a keenly watched election in the United Nations General Assembly, India has squarely beaten China to win a seat on the Joint Inspection Unit, the UN’s oversight body, for a five-year term starting Jan 1, 2013.

India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, A. Gopinathan, Tuesday defeated Zhang Yan, the controversial Chinese ambassador to India by 106 votes to 77 in a straight contest.

China, which has held the Asian seat without a break for the last 10 years, had put up Zhang, who has another claim to fame in India. A few weeks ago, he is reported to have told a journalist in New Delhi to “shut up” about cartographic aggression on India by commercial entities in Beijing.

India has served only once on the JIU, 35 years ago, from 1968 to 1977. Japan is the only other Asian country on the powerful body that has the responsibility for the oversight of the UN.

Although the contest between India, an aspirant for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, and China, one of the “Big Five” in the council, is seen as “historic”, diplomats suggested that New Delhi had only chosen to contest on the assumption that China would not seek re-election as per convention.

But China, which is serving a second five-year term ending Dec 31, 2012 instead of bowing out in favour of another state from the same geographical area, sought re-election for the third time at the last minute and New Delhi decided to stay in the contest.

Earlier, 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 New Delhi.

The JIU is a standing subsidiary organ of the General Assembly with a mandate covering the United Nations, its separately administered Funds and Programmes, and the Specialised Agencies that have accepted its Statute. It is composed of not more than eleven Inspectors serving for a term of five years, renewable once.

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