NEW DELHI - India has not committed to support French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde's candidacy for the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) top job, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday, a sign that India may still be hopeful of nominating an alternative candidate.
Lagarde said that Indian officials had given positive views on her credentials as part of a visit to the country to drum up support for her candidacy in a television interview barely two hours after Mukherjee's comments.
The French minister added that she hoped to get a view on China's position during her visit to the country that begins on Wednesday.
The IMF top job fell vacant after its former boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. Kahn has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
"No assurance," Mukherjee replied tersely, on being asked whether he had given any assurance to Lagarde for the top job at the IMF.
The Indian finance minister reiterated India's position saying the candidate chosen for the top job at the IMF should be on merit.
Lagarde later described her meetings with Indian officials as "excellent".
"I don't think I will betray their confidence in saying that they (Indian leaders) expressed positive views about my skills and credentials," she told CNBC-TV18.
Lagarde is seen as the leading candidate in the IMF race, which also includes Mexico's central bank chief Agustin Carstens.
"Many African countries have expressed, publicly for some and privately for others, their support for my candidacy," Lagarde said.
"My suspicion frankly, is that a lot of countries are going to wait until June 10, because that is the closing of candidacy filing," she added.
Indian officials have been working behind the scenes with other BRICS countries and emerging markets to evolve a consensus for an alternative to Lagarde, but that consensus has eluded them so far.
The Indian finance minister said that it is difficult to say whether the BRICS and the emerging markets will have a common candidate for the top job.
"We are working together with the BRICS countries. It is difficult to say at right this moment because there is a divergence of views in respect of different candidates".
The BRICS grouping includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
That divergence has allowed the European Union to quickly close ranks behind Lagarde. The French also claimed support from the China and the US though both these countries did not publicly proclaim support for Lagarde.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama are expected to meet today and the issue of the IMF top job is likely to be on the discussion table.
The United States and EU together hold 48 percent of the votes at the IMF and if US and China support Lagarde, the French finance minister will end up with the top job.
With no unity in the ranks of the emerging economies and the BRICS countries, the only stumbling block for Lagarde could be an order which may open her up to an enquiry into her role in a 2008 legal settlement.