NEW DELHI, June 9: Jayantha Dhanapala, the veteran Sri Lankan diplomat and candidate for the United Nations Secretary-General’s post, will visit New Delhi next month to seek India’s support, considered crucial for his success.

Dhanapala will arrive here on July 3 and meet Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran the next day. During his two-day stay here, he is likely to meet Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma and several others in the foreign policy establishment.

The 67-year-old Dhanapala has many friends and well-wishers in the Indian capital eversince he worked here as Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner during 1981-83.

India has not yet decided who it will back for the top job at the UN, which will fall vacant in December this year, when Kofi Annan completes his second five-year term. Last month, visiting Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera informed Anand Sharma about Dhanapala’s candidature and requested for India’s support. The Indian Foreign Office said it has taken note of the matter.

Dhanapala’s upcoming visit here and the meetings being lined up for him will provide him with an opportunity to interact with the Indian policy-makers and to present his case to them.

Traditionally, the UN Secretary-General’s post rotates from region to region. Asia is next in line. Dhanapala has competition from South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon and Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

Others aspiring for the job from other parts of the globe include Turkey’s Kemal Dervis (who heads the UN Development Programme), former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, and Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

However, assessing the contenders’ chances, the prestigious New York-based "Foreign Policy" journal has tipped Dhanapala as the man most likely to become the UN’s next Secretary General. He gets the most favourable odds of 6 to 1 as compared to former US President Bill Clinton, who stands a 1 in 1,000 chance.

Should India decide to back Dhanapala’s candidature, his chances of success will be further enhanced.

By S. Venkat Narayan
Island Special Correspondent