Kenneth Juster, who has worked to cement India-U.S. relations over the past 16 years, was unanimously confirmed by the Senate late afternoon Nov. 2 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.
Cornyn has also strongly expressed his support for Juster.
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.
After Juster’s hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Rossow, senior adviser and Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Sanjay Puri, founder of USINPAC, both predicted Juster would easily be confirmed. “This is going to be more of a transactional relationship. Trump is saying ‘Buy American, Hire Americans,’ while Prime Minister Modi is pushing ‘Make in India.’ Ken is going to have to thread the needle that sews together both countries’ nationalistic agendas,” Puri told India-West.
Rossow said both countries are trying to avoid big trade deals. “Right now, on the economic front, this is not the time for big dreams,” he told India-West, adding that the Trump administration is questioning every trade agreement currently in place.
Puri, however, said “the time is right to get some wins on both sides.” He noted that Modi was under pressure to shore up the flailing economy post demonetization and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, which have made investors wary.
Trump is a deal-maker, said Puri, noting that the president was also under pressure to boost his international trade muscles. He stated that American companies might fare better by bypassing the central government’s vast bureaucracy and focusing on state governments with progressive mindsets.
Juster holds a law degree from the Harvard Law School, a Masters in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a Bachelors degree in Government from Harvard.
He has also served as chairman of Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and vice chairman of The Asia Foundation.