By Manoj Kumar and Rajesh Kumar Singh
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is talking with other emerging countries to build support behind a common candidate from a developing market to head the International Monetary Fund, with Mexico's central bank chief a possibility, two Indian government sources said on Wednesday.
A joint emerging markets candidate could be announced this week, the sources said, although China's evident support for the candidacy of French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde could mean that such a move would be more about making a statement.
Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, known as the BRICS, sharply criticized European officials on Tuesday for suggesting the next IMF head should automatically be a European.
"We are open to support a strong candidate from emerging economies. He or she could either be Mexican, Brazilian or South African," an Indian government source, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
"We expect a common candidate of BRICS/emerging economies may be announced in two to three days," the source added.
In the first joint statement issued by their directors at the IMF, the BRICS said the choice should be based on competence, not nationality, and called for "abandoning the obsolete unwritten convention that requires that the head of the IMF be necessarily from Europe."
Lagarde announced her candidacy for the IMF's top job on Wednesday, and diplomats said she has secured the backing of the United States and China. Earlier, France's government said China would back Lagarde, although the Chinese foreign ministry declined comment.
Indian negotiators say they would like to see a consensus candidate from the emerging markets. Even if it does not mean winning the contest, putting forth a joint candidate would at least send a strong message that there is a need for reforms at the IMF, the first source said.
The other source downplayed a lack of unity within the BRICS grouping.
"You have seen the BRICS statement on the matter. China is part of the BRICS. So they are with us," the second source said.
The first source said India was not planning to put up its own candidate, adding that Montek Singh Ahluwalia, India's most likely contender for the post, had been ruled out as he is 67 years old. As per IMF rules, the head of the global lender should not be over 65.
The source said India would have preferred Trevor Manuel, South Africa's former finance minister, as the joint emerging markets candidate. But Manuel is not finding favor from a few emerging countries, the source added.
The top job at the global lender fell vacant after former boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned last week after he was charged with attempted rape of a hotel maid in New York.
(Editing by Tony Munroe)