By Arun Kumar
Washington: Senator John Kerry, President Barack Obama’s choice to replace Hillary Clinton as the next secretary of state, a former Democratic presidential candidate, is considered a true friend of India.
If for Clinton Washington’s relationship with New Delhi was an “affair of the heart”, Kerry, 69, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, looks at India-US ties as “without doubt one of the most significant partnerships in the US foreign policy”.
“There are fewer relationships that will be as vital in the 21st century as our growing ties with India and its people,” he said at the confirmation hearings for Obama’s nominee to be the US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell in February.
“On all of the most critical global challenges that we face, India really has a central role to play. And that means that Washington is going to be looking to New Delhi not only for cooperation, but increasingly for innovation, for regional leadership,” he then said.
“India’s growing significance has been clear to many of us for some time now,” said Kerry who has been to India many times since the 1990s when he took one of the first business trade missions to India right after its economic reforms.
The senior senator from Massachusetts, who is noted for having the experience, gravitas and relationship-building skills, was also a strong supporter of Obama’s endorsement of India to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Making the announcement about Kerry’s appointment Friday, Obama praised the senator’s “extraordinarily distinguished Senate career” and military service “with valour” in the Vietnam War.
“Over these many years, John’s earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world. He is not going to need a lot of on-the-job-training,” Obama said.
Clinton was not present for the announcement because she is still recovering from a concussion, but she issued a statement calling the pick “excellent”.
Clinton said Kerry has been her “trusted partner on major foreign policy challenges”. She said he helped end the war in Iraq and advocate a “responsible transition in Afghanistan”.
Kerry was born in Denver, Dec 11, 1943, and he spent much of his childhood overseas. He lived in Berlin, and then went to a Swiss boarding school when he was 11.
After graduating from Yale University in 1966, Kerry was deployed to Vietnam as a lieutenant in the US Navy.
Upon his return home in the early 1970s, Kerry ran his first political campaign, a losing effort for a congressional seat in Massachusetts 1972.
He eventually entered politics in 1982 as lieutenant governor under Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Two years later, Kerry won the US Senate seat he has held for five consecutive terms.