Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Can-do Korea’s lesson for India Roles reversed on world stage K.P. NAYAR

Can-do Korea's lesson for India 
Roles reversed on world stage

New York, March 25: The nomination of South Korea-born Jim Yong-kim as US President Barack Obama's choice to head the World Bank represents a stunning advance for a people who came onto the world stage for all practical purposes only 20 years ago when Seoul was admitted to the UN at the end of 1991.
A South Korean, Ban Ki-moon, already heads the UN as its secretary-general, a post widely regarded as embodying mankind's conscience and is arguably the world's most important diplomat.
In the short span of two decades which do not represent even a blip in history or necessarily a milestone in diplomacy, South Koreans have left their firm footprint on the exclusive world of international organisations.
There is a lesson that India can learn from South Korea, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is currently witness to Seoul's spectacular role in world affairs in recent years.
South Korea, which has steadily built up its global presence by nominating its people for key international civil service jobs, stands in direct contrast to India's minuscule presence on the world stage. Except for one — Kamalesh Sharma, secretary-general of the Commonwealth — no Indian heads any worthwhile international organisation any more, a far cry from the early years of Independence when prominent Indians were sought-after for important jobs that impacted mankind.
In addition to Ban and Jim, a South Korean, Kim Hak-su, became head of UN's Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) in 2000 and remained in his post for seven years.
UNESCAP's first executive secretary who assumed the post in the very year of India's freedom, P.S. Lokanathan, was Jawaharlal Nehru's choice to head the biggest of the UN's five regional commissions in terms of both population served and area covered. His successor too was an Indian, the celebrated international civil servant, C.V. Narasimhan.
Since then, a Pakistani, a Bangladeshi and a Myanmarese have all held the job, which oversaw, among other things, the establishment of the Asian Development Bank in 1966, an event that was important for Asia's growth.
Kim was the first South Korean to head the UNESCAP, which is technically a part of the UN secretariat and is funded from its regular budget. Heading this Asian arm of the UN secretariat was an objective that Seoul worked on diligently as soon as it became a UN member.
Similarly, South Korea sought the post of director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO) at a time when it appeared that pandemics, like the severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, were threatening Asia's welfare and growth.
The campaign was successful and Seoul's nominee, Lee Jong-wook, became only the second Asian to head the WHO in 2003. The first was a Japanese nominee who held the job for a decade from 1988.
The West, with its medical advances, have always considered the WHO as its preserve and views Japan as an extension of its own growth. The election of Lee was a landmark in the ongoing power shift to Asia. He would probably have remained in his post now if a sudden illness had not resulted in his death in May 2006.
Unlike India, which has pathetically slipped down the pole of international civil service, other similarly placed emerging powers appear to have a far better score card.
A Brazilian, Jose Graziano da Silva, now heads the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which will have a big role in India's aspiration for a second green revolution.
For 11 years from 1956, when the green revolution was initiated, the FAO was headed by a graduate of Calcutta University, Assam-born Binay Ranjan Sen. He later went to Oxford University and then joined the civil service. His first government job was as district magistrate of Midnapore.
In the place of men like Sen who was decorated by the governments of Chad, Gabon, Ivory Coast, South Korea, Lebanon, Morocco and the Vatican for his contribution to the alleviation of global hunger, India now suffers from a dire poverty of talent for appointments to head international organisations.
The UN's World Food Programme, which is called in to help with every famine or refugee crisis, was created when Sen headed the FAO.
Like Brazil, another emerging power, Nigeria, has done far better than India in international civil service appointments as heads of international bodies.
Kanayo Nwanze, a Nigerian, is now president of the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Another Nigerian, Babatunde Osotimehin, is the current executive director of the UN's Population Fund (UNFPA). The fund's leadership earlier went to a Pakistani, Nafis Sadik. It is perhaps a consolation for some Indians that Sadik was born in Jaunpur in India and migrated to Pakistan.
India's other South Asian neighbours have not fared poorly either, considering their limited clout in global affairs. Sri Lanka managed to bag the post of deputy director-general of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for its diplomat, Grace Asirwatham. She was director-general for South Asia in the foreign ministry in Colombo before taking up this job.
Nepal has a vice-president for knowledge management and sustainable development at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Bindu Lohani. But even in an institution like the ADB, where a Japanese has traditionally been at its head, India has ceded the South Asia portfolio to a Chinese national, Xiaoyu Zhao. An Indian-in-name, Rajat Nag, is managing director-general of ADB, but it is misleading. Nag is actually a Canadian.
Kamalesh Sharma's second four-year term as secretary-general of the Commonwealth, which was approved unanimously at the 54-nation organisation's summit in Australia last year is an endorsement of the work he has done as its chief executive. But Krishnan Srinivasan, an Indian who was deputy secretary-general of the Commonwealth, argues that "its public profile, even by the standards of contemporary international organisations, is not high".
Besides, Sharma was elected to his post in 2007 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala and not appointed, unlike most international civil service jobs.
India has done spectacularly well in elections on global platforms in recent years, testifying to its rising popularity and profile. It is in appointments that New Delhi has come a cropper, pointing to a paucity of talent required for top jobs unlike in earlier generations.
Obama's nominee for the World Bank presidency is legally an American citizen, but his presence at the bank's sprawling headquarters on Washington's H Street will represent the biggest change that the organisation has seen since it was founded in 1944.
The bank's staff of over 10,000 people who come from 167 countries other than the US are likely to see their presumptive new chief as a South Korean, having identified its unbroken American presidency with a white face.
Even when a president with the last name "Black" headed the bank from 1949 to 1962, he was actually a white American. The bank has also had the strange experience of having an American president with the middle name "Strange" in Robert McNamara from 1968 to 1981.
In the unlikely event that Jim does not make it to the top World Bank post, the front-runner will be Nigeria's finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. An Indian-American, Indira Nooyi, chief executive of Pepsico, was mentioned speculatively as a possible Obama choice before the president nominated the Korea-born health expert.

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