Kenneth Juster: Just another name for US ambassador to India or more?
Juster, a lawyer from Harvard, is an old India hand, having launched the High Technology Cooperation Group to promote trade in sensitive dual-use goods and technology, as deputy secretary of commerce in the George W Bush administration in 2003.world Updated: Jun 04, 2017 20:36 IST
President Donald Trump’s top adviser on international economic issues, Kenneth Juster, could land up in Roosevelt House, home to the US ambassador to India, if his detractors in the White House prevailed in the high-stakes infighting currently underway between proponents and opponents of globalism.
Ambassadorship to India is currently on the “back-burner” of the administration, according to multiple sources, specially on account, in their view, of its preoccupation with ongoing controversies about the Russia probe and “the stifling impact it has had on our plans to forge ahead” with its agenda.
Speculation has continued, but with waning intensity in recent weeks.
Shalli Kumar, a Chicago businessman who was the largest Indian American donor to Trump, had emerged as an early frontrunner, but was quickly eclipsed by talk about Ashley Tellis, a widely respected Indian-born expert, and others.
A former US ambassador to India who is advising the administration on this search is said to have suggested the names of John Chambers, the CISCO executive chairman and chairman of the US-Indian Business Council since 2015, and Alan Mulally, the legendary former president and chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Company.
Juster, a lawyer who previously served as deputy secretary of commerce — a position roughly the equivalent of minister of state in India - is aligned with the globalists, who favour a larger US involvement in the global economy, according to Politico that first reported the tussle.
And that put him on the wrong side of Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, head of the anti-globalist and pro-nationalist faction, which doesn’t automatically imperil Juster’s position, because Bannon himself is struggling to regain the clout he lost by taking on Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
But Politico was told by an administration official, “He is not long for the White House. I know he is going to be reassigned … He is not going to be here long. The question is where will he go. That’s the only reason he’s not gone already is they’re trying to find him an alternate position.”
The same official said Juster was being considered for “for an ambassadorship, possibly the US ambassador to India”.
Juster, a lawyer from Harvard, is an old India hand, having launched the High Technology Cooperation Group to promote trade in sensitive dual-use goods and technology, as deputy secretary of commerce in the George W Bush administration in 2003.
As deputy director of the White House’s National Economic Council, which is headed by Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive, Juster had emerged as a top contact at the Trump White House for visiting Indian officials, especially during the time the administration transitioned from one NSA to another — from Michael Flynn to HR McMaster.
Indian officials refused to comment on or off the record, but generally speaking New Delhi prefers a US ambassador with access to the White House, and Juster has that even if it was to a faction that looks in danger of losing this internal tussle, and some personnel such as Juster, for now.
In another time and tussle, Juster may be on the winning side.
First Published: May 20, 2017 10:49 IST