Veteran Senator John Kerry, who favors strong ties with India, was sworn in Feb. 2 as secretary of state, replacing Hillary Clinton as America's top diplomat. Kerry, 69, was sworn in at a private ceremony, taking an oath administered by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
"I was very honored to be sworn in and very anxious to get to work," Kerry told the media, with his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry by his side. Besides his wife, he was joined by daughter Vanessa, brother Cameron, and his Senate staff. Kerry is a strong advocate of peace talks between India and Pakistan as he firmly believes that there are few relationships that will be vital in the 21st century for Washington's ties with New Delhi. Kerry has an illustrious career spanning over three decades of public life. For the last four years he was chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
A close confidant of Obama, Kerry in the last four years several times came to the rescue of the Obama administration whenever the American relationship with Pakistan reached a low ebb. He has a personal relationship with top Pakistani leadership. Kerry's top priority during his tenure is going to be the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan — in which Pakistan has a crucial role to play. He is also expected to make his first trip to India in the first six months of his occupying the post of top American diplomat. While it is too early to zero in on the precise dates, Kerry would be leading a high-powered American delegation to India sometime in the middle of this year for the next round of the India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue; which was started by his predecessor Clinton and former External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in 2010 in Washington.
A Vietnam war veteran, Kerry played a key role in shaping the country's foreign policy and national security and on a range of issues including Afghanistan and Pakistan, nuclear nonproliferation, and global climate change. As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, in 2010, Kerry was instrumental in renewing the New START Treaty, a vital nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. During Kerry's tenure, the State Department is unlikely to see any major change in the American policy towards India; in fact, there would be efforts to take it to the next level,officials said, adding that India-U.S. ties have now reached an auto mode wherein change in personalities is unlikely to derail the relationship.
During the confirmation hearing of U.S. Ambassador to India Nancy Powell in February last year, Kerry had said, "There are few relationships that will be as vital in the 21st century as our growing ties with India and its people. On all of the most critical global challenges that we face, India 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 and regional leadership as well," Kerry had said. "India's growing significance has been clear to many of us for quite some time now. That's why President Obama invited Prime Minister Singh to be his guest at the first state dinner, Secretary Clinton has visited India twice, and both countries inaugurated the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue two years ago.
"Both Republicans and Democrats understand the need to capitalize on the democratic values and strategic interests that our two countries share. And that’s why it is important that we work together every day—as I think we are—to further cultivate our relationship," Kerry said on Feb. 7, 2012.