Washington: Kenneth Juster, a top economic expert on India, was on Friday unanimously confirmed by the Senate as the next US ambassador to New Delhi, filling a key position as the two countries push forward their strategic ties.
Juster, 62, is an old India hand who played a key role in developing the landmark Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
He would replace Indian-American Richard Verma as the top American diplomat to India. The position has been lying vacant since January 20 after Verma resigned from the post after the swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the US.
Juster's nomination confirmation on last Friday agreed by the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a voice vote, reflecting the bipartisan support for him in Congress.
His appointment comes at a time when president Donald Trump sees an important role for India in South Asia. While announcing his new South Asia policy, Trump had said, "We will develop a deeper strategic partnership with India, but we want them to help us more in Afghanistan."
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a major India- policy speech before his visit to India had said the US was India's "reliable partner" at the world stage in this period of uncertainty and angst.
He had said the emerging Delhi-Washington strategic partnership stands upon a shared commitment upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, universal values and free trade.
Powerful democratic senator Mark Warner welcomed the Senate confirmation of Juster.
"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," he said.
"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, cyber security and defense will help advance the US-India relationship in a positive direction," Warner said.
Juster was nominated to be the ambassador to India on September 5. He has over 35 years of experience as a senior business executive, senior law partner, and senior government official, including serving as the US Under Secretary of Commerce from 2001 to 2005.
Juster is soon expected to visit India for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Hyderabad later this month. The annual summit is being co-hosted by India and the United States.
Trump's senior adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump will be leading a high-powered American delegation of entrepreneurs to the GES, which will be inaugurated by prime minister Narendra Modi.
Juster founded and served as the US Chair of the US-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 US-India relationship and helped provide the foundation for the historic civil nuclear agreement between the two countries.
Most recently, Juster had served as the deputy assistant to the president for International Economic Affairs and deputy director of the National Economic Council.
Juster played a key role in enhancing the Indo-US ties under the Bush administration.
Juster has also served as the Counselor (acting) of the State Department from 1992-1993, and deputy and senior adviser to the Deputy Secretary of State from 1989-1992.
In the private sector, he has been a partner at the investment firm Warburg Pincus LLC, executive vice president at Salesforce.com, and senior partner at the law firm Arnold & Porter.
He has also served as chairman of Harvard University's Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs, and as vice chairman of The Asia Foundation.
Juster holds a law degree from the Harvard Law School, a masters degree in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a bachelors degree in Government from Harvard College.