Susan Rice, the present US ambassador to the United Nations, is set to be secretary of state in the second Obama administration, say several sources. She will take over from Hillary Clinton.
Bruce Riedel, Barack Obama’s former AfPak adviser, has no doubts that Rice will hold the senior ministry in the US cabinet. Senior US and Indian diplomatic sources concur with this assessment.
Rice will be the second African-American woman to hold the position; the first being Condoleeza Rice under George W Bush. The two aren’t related.
Rice, said a US diplomatic source, is the closest among the candidates to President Barack Obama.
Obama is said to “light up” when he meets her.
The present national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, is the only other person whom the president is considering. But he seems set to continue in his present position.
Rice has a past record of being an Indo-sceptic, not hostile but doubtful of its ability to play a constructive global role.
“This comes from her long multilateral diplomatic experience, an area where India is more cautious than the US,” said a former Indian ambassador to the US.
Rice’s strong support for humanitarian intervention is not always in consonance with Indian policy.
But India and the US have worked more closely together in the UN over the past few years than before.
India’s UN envoy, Hardeep Puri, was recently quoted as saying “Susan is easy to work with. There’s no ambiguity.”
New Delhi says she consults the Indian team regularly and even came to India a few months ago on a holiday.
Rice ran her own foreign policy team, reporting directly to the White House at times — a habit that did not make her popular with Hillary Clinton but clearly had the blessings of Obama.
Clinton, the present secretary of state, has signalled that she will step down next year.