Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed an Indian veteran of United Nations operations in Timor-Leste as his new Special Representative for the small South-East Asian nation, which was shaken earlier this year by violence attributed to differences between eastern and western regions.
Atul Khare, who served with the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET) from June 2002 until its completion in May 2005, first as Chief of Staff and later as Mr. Annan’s Deputy Special Representative, succeeds Sukehiro Hasegawa of Japan, whose appointment expired on 30 September.
Prior to joining the UN, Mr. Khare was a member of the Indian Foreign Service, where his postings included Deputy High Commissioner to Mauritius, Counselor at India’s UN Mission and Chargé d’Affaires in Senegal, where he was also accredited to Mali, Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde.
At the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, he held the posts of Chef de Cabinet of the Foreign Secretary and Director of the UN Division. Since 2005, Mr. Khare has served as Director of the Nehru Centre and Minister (Culture) of the Indian High Commission in London.
Born in 1959, Mr. Khare holds a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery (with Honours) from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Master’s degrees in Business Administration and in Leadership from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, and an Advanced Diploma (with Distinction) in French from the Indian Defence School of Languages.
The crisis in Timor-Leste, which the UN shepherded to independence in 2002 after it voted to break away from Indonesia in 1999, erupted after the firing of 600 striking soldiers, a third of the armed forces, with the ensuing violence claiming at least 37 lives and driving 155,000 people, 15 per cent of the total population, from their homes.
In August the Security Council created the expanded UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) to help restore order in the country and support next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. UNMIT currently has just over 460 police officers on the ground, out of a total mandated complement of 1,608.
It is also fielding military observers and is supported by 102 international civilians, 222 local civilian and 34 UN Volunteers.