US President Barack Obama nominated on Friday Ash Carter, an old India hand in US military establishment, as his next defense secretary, succeeding Chuck Hagel.
Carter, who headed a task force to expedite sale of sensitive military technologies to India, will be Obama’s fourth defense secretary if and when confirmed.
“As an advisor, as a scholar," Obama said announcing the nomination at the White House, Carter has been “by my side... I relied on his judgment”.
And, the President added, he combines "strategic perspective and technical know-how”.
Carter is a physicist with a degree in medieval history, but has worked mostly as a defense sector technocrat most of his life, serving 11 defense secretaries by one count.
Vikram Singh, a former Pentagon official who once worked with Carter, told Hindustan Times that Carter doesn’t only understand how Pentagon work but also “how global defense relations are changing in the 21st century”.
“He demonstrated this on ties with India as deputy secretary, pushing to upgrade every aspect of US-India defense ties.”
Singh, who is now with a think-tank, said he believes that “if Ash Carter's Pentagon finds an equally creative and innovative partner on the India side, there could be a great leap with substantial benefits for Indian and US military capabilities and for regional security”.
Without questioning Carter’s interest in India — he has been an early and long-term supporter of ties with India, he has said often — other experts wondered if he will find time for it.
He will have a busy to-do list with the United States transitioning to an advisory role in Afghanistan, conducting a war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and budget cuts at home.
Carnegie’s Ashley Tellis told this newspaper earlier, “I suspect that, given the massive problems in Defense, he'd have little or no time to focus on India issues.”