Kenneth Juster, who has worked to cement India-U.S. relations over the past 16 years, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on November 2nd as the next U.S. Ambassador to India. Juster takes over from Indian American Richard Verma, an Obama appointee who was asked to step down Jan. 20, before President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The post has been vacant since January. Trump nominated Juster Sept. 5.
Juster currently serves as the deputy assistant to the president for international economic affairs and deputy director of the National Economic Council. “I was proud to support Ken’s nomination to be our country’s representative in India, one of our most important defense partners in the region,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, who co-chairs the Senate India Caucus with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.
“I have known Ken since we were in law school in the 1970s. As Ambassador, I trust his decades of work on critical issues like trade, cybersecurity and defense will help advance the U.S.-India relationship in a positive direction,” said Warner, who also serves as vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a press statement released shortly after Juster was confirmed.
Juster is seen as a veteran India hand. He founded and served as the U.S. Chair of the U.S.-India High Technology Cooperation Group, and was one of the key architects of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership initiative between the United States and India.
“His work related to India played an important role in the transformation of the U.S.-India relationship and helped provide the foundation for the historic civil nuclear agreement between the two countries,” noted Warner.
Juster has also served at the State Department and at the Commerce Department. His first call of duty will be to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad Nov. 28-30. After Trump was elected to office, several Indian American business leaders expressed concern as to whether the summit, co-hosted by India and the U.S., would occur this year.
Later this month, Trump’s daughter Ivanka will be leading a powerful delegation of business luminaries to the GES. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the three-day event. On Sept. 28, Juster sailed through his hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, handily fielding questions on bonded labor on human trafficking. The nominee emphasized that both countries could continue to work together to combat climate change, despite Trump’s pull-out of the Paris Agreement this summer. Juster noted that India has expressed great interest in clean technology and energy from renewable sources. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Oct. 26.
Juster was nominated by President Trump in September, and is in time to join the ongoing preparations for the Global Economic Summit end of November, being hosted jointly by Washington and New Delhi, where the U.S. delegation will be led by the President’s daughter Ivanka Trump.
A key player in the making of the U.S. – India civil nuclear agreement back in 2005, Juster will be pushing forward the administration’s ambitious agenda of strengthening the strategic alliance with India particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. This in the midst of a rare asymmetric drumbeat from Washington about India’s emerging global power status and Pakistan’s harboring of terrorists.
In his testimony at the Committee hearings, Juster said he looked forward to advancing “our strategic partnership with India – a relationship that is critical to promoting U.S. national security and economic interests.” He also spoke of the contributions of the nearly 4 million Indian-Americans, and stressed that as a democracy, India’s government and its civil society community was already “grappling” with issues like bonded labor and human rights as well as sex trafficking. He said he would find the right “interlocutors” to address American concerns in every area of concern.