Our man in New York sends word of a little noticed election at the United Nations in which the dragon has suffered a reverse at the hands of the elephant. For the past 10 years, Beijing has occupied a seat on the UN’s Joint Inspection Unit, the UN system’s independent external oversight body. But it has been ousted with A. Gopinathan’s 106-77 defeat of Zhang Yan for a five-year term starting in 2013. Gopinathan is India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva; Zhang is Beijing’s well-regarded but somewhat controversial ambassador to New Delhi.
This was a rare head-to-head confrontation of Asia’s two regional powers, and while the post is of greater importance within the UN than without, it serves as a reminder that Beijing’s sway is not omnipotent, regardless of the fact that China has a permanent seat on the UN’s Security Council, whereas India has only a rotating one. We also understand that New Delhi only decided to fight for the post after Beijing asked it not to field a candidate for Asia’s second seat at the unit. Japan holds the other one.