Trump names Ken Juster as new US ambassador to India
The White House announced Kenneth I Juster, a top economic aide and an expert on India, as the US ambassador to India – a position that has been vacant since Donald Trump was sworn on January 20.Updated: Sep 02, 2017 18:25 IST
The Trump administration announced Kenneth Juster as the next US ambassador to India, filling a crucial position that had been lying vacant since the new president took office and relieved all envoys appointed by the previous administration, as is the practice barring some exception.
An experienced India hand, 62-year-old Juster is currently serving as deputy assistant to the president for International Economic Affairs and deputy director of the National Economic Council, and had emerged as the leading interlocutor for the administration with India, and visiting officials.
He was a key part of the White House faction that had come to be branded the “globalists” or “moderates”, led by the president’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn and that included Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both advisers to the president.
For instance, they stood for continued engagement with the world, and argued for the United States to remain in the Paris Climate Accord. But they lost to the “nationalists” group led by the president’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who had pushed for an ‘America First’ thrust to all Trump policies.
Juster’s appointment as ambassador, within just a few months of his appointment to the key White House position, was tied to the same tussle according to speculation, but came to be seen as a good choice by both India and India-watchers in the US.
“Indians like the US ambassador in Delhi to have high-level connections in the White House, if not to the president directly, and Juster has excellent connections there, specially with Cohn, who hired him,” said an observer, who has known the nominee and had closely followed the selection process.
Ashley Tellis, a leading US expert on India who had once been the subject of speculation for the post of ambassador to Delhi, had told Hindustan Times earlier that Juster would be “an excellent choice”.
Juster’s nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate, a process that could take weeks, as it deals with a stream of appointments that the administration is making to fill many crucial positions that have remained unoccupied. There is still no assistant secretary of state for South and Centra Asia in the US State Department, a key position dealing with India, among other countries.
Juster, a lawyer from Harvard, is an experienced India hand. As deputy secretary of commerce in President George W Bush’s administration — a position roughly the equivalent of a minister of state in India — he had launched the High Technology Cooperation Group to promote trade in sensitive dual-use goods and technology.
He served as under secretary of commerce from 2001 to 2005, counselor (acting) of the State Department from 1992 to 1993, and deputy and senior adviser to the deputy secretary of state from 1989 to 1992.
In the private sector, the White House statement about his nomination said, he has been a partner at the investment firm Warburg Pincus LLC, which has been very bullish on India and scaled up investments there; executive vice president at Salesforce.com, and senior partner at the law firm Arnold & Porter.
He was also chairman of Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and vice chairman of The Asia Foundation. Apart from a law degree from the Harvard Law School, he has a master’s degree in Public Policy from the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard College.