President-elect Joe Biden, over the last few weeks, nominated a long list of members for his cabinet and White House team. Since the Democrats have secured a majority in the US Senate, it is likely that Biden will be able to fill in top spots with the people he has nominated so far.
Many of these people will influence Biden’s foreign policy and in turn, Indo-US relationships.
Here’s a look at who Biden has picked for key positions to fulfil his agenda promised in the run-up to the US Presidential elections, and also what his means for his policies towards India.
Antony Blinken as Secretary of State
Blinken has been a long-time confidante of Biden’s, Reuters reported, and served as No. 2 at the State Department and as deputy national security adviser in President Barack Obama’s administration.
In recent comments about India, Blinken has said, “India has been a bipartisan success story of our successive administrations,” Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken told members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
“During the Obama administration, we deepened cooperation on defense procurement and information sharing, and the Trump administration carried that forward including its concept of Indo-Pacific and to make sure we were working with India so that no country in the region including China could challenge its sovereignty and also working with it on concerns that we share about terrorism,” he said.
Earlier, in July last year, in a conversation about US foreign policy, especially in relation to India, Blinken had said, “I think from Vice President Biden’s perspective, strengthening and deepening the relationship with India is going to be a very high priority. It’s usually important to the future of the Indo-Pacific and the kind of order that we all want; it’s fair, stable, and hopefully increasingly democratic and it’s vital to being able to tackle some of these big global challenges.”
Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary
Yellen has been a Federal Reserve chair and remained active in policy debates at the Brookings Institution think tank since Republican President Donald Trump replaced her as head of the central bank in 2018, reported Reuters. If she secures the position, Business Standard reports that one of the first things she will have to tackle with India are exchange rates.
On Tuesday Indian shares ended more than 1% higher on hopes of more foreign fund inflows into the domestic market, as incoming Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is expected to bolster the case for heavy stimulus in the United States. Yellen had said the government must “act big” with its next coronavirus relief package.
Lloyd Austin as Defence Secretary
Austin is a retired four-star Army general. He oversaw US forces in the Middle East under Obama, would be the first Black U.S. secretary of defence if the Senate confirms him.
PTI quoted Austin as saying “If confirmed, my overarching objective for our defense relationship with India would be to continue elevating the partnership”
“I would further operationalise India’s ”Major Defence Partner” status and continue to build upon existing strong defense cooperation to ensure the US and Indian militaries can collaborate to address shared interests,” Austin said in response to a question submitted before his confirmation hearing.
Austin said his understanding is that Pakistan has taken constructive steps to meet US requests in support of the Afghanistan peace process. Pakistan has also taken steps against anti-Indian groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taeba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, although this progress is incomplete, he said.
“Many factors in addition to the security assistance suspension may impact Pakistan’s cooperation, including Afghanistan negotiations and the dangerous escalation following the Pulwama terrorist attack,” he said.
Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security
Mayorkas was the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration. A lawyer by profession, if confirmed, he will become the first Latino and first immigrant to head the department.
Ron Klain as White House Chief of Staff
Klain has been a longtime Biden adviser with experience in responding to the Ebola pandemic. PTI reported that Klain will work to build a diverse, experienced and talented team to help President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris meet the urgent challenges facing the country.
John Kerry as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate
Kerry is a former Senator and Secretary of State. Reuters reported that Kerry will act as “climate czar” in the Biden administration. Kerry helped negotiate the Paris climate deal that Biden is likely to re-join.
Syed Akbaruddin, a former diplomat and a former MEA spokesperson, wrote in the Hindustan Times, “The announcement of John Kerry’s appointment to the new post of special presidential envoy for climate is an indication that US President-elect Joe Biden’s climate agenda is global. Kerry’s assertion that, “America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat that it is” reflects the thinking that the impact of the climate crisis is becoming more complex.”
Jake Sullivan as National Security Adviser
Sullivan was Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice president and also served as the deputy chief of staff to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Economic Times reported that when Clinton visited India, Sullivan played a key role, and is likely to further build on partnerships between US and India.
Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence
Haines was the first woman to serve as CIA deputy director and was deputy national security adviser under Obama. Reuters said she has held several posts at Columbia University after leaving the outgoing Obama administration in 2017.
William Burns as CIA Director
Burns, if confirmed, will be the first career diplomat to lead the CIA. He is currently heading US’s leading policy think-tank the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. On the rise of China, Burns had written in The Atlantic, “Preventing China’s rise is beyond America’s capacity, and our economies are too entangled to decouple. The U.S. can, however, shape the environment into which China rises, taking advantage of the web of allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific—from Japan and South Korea to a rising India—who worry about China’s ascendance.”
Neera Tanden as Office of Management and Budget Director
Tanden is one of the many Indian-origin people who will hold a key post in the Biden administration. She is the president of the progressive Center for American Progress think tank that helped create Obamacare.
Katherine Tai as US Trade Representative
Tai played a key role to attain stronger labor provisions in the US.-Mexico-Canada trade deal. She will lead trade talks with China, previously worked at the office she will now run, heading China trade enforcement from 2011 to 2014. AFP reported she would be the first Asian-American and the fourth woman to serve in the cabinet-level role.
Tai is a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law, currently works as the chief trade lawyer for the House Ways and Means Committee.