24 Nov 2017 13:37 IST

New US envoy to push defence deals, trade agenda

Sealing big-ticket defence deals will be the top priority for Kenneth Juster

As the new US Ambassador to India Kenneth Ian Juster gears up to take charge on December 1, there will be plenty of challenges for him particularly on the defence and trade fronts.

Juster, 62, presented his credentials to President Ramnath Kovind on Thursday. He will be succeeding Richard Verma, the first ever Indian-American Ambassador to India. Verma demitted the office in January after President Donald Trump assumed charge.

Juster’s appointment as US Ambassador was confirmed earlier this month after a unanimous bipartisan vote was given at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

India hand

An experienced India hand, Juster knows how governments and businesses operate in the country.

A Republican, Juster was one of the key officials instrumental in getting the Civil Nuclear deal through in July 2005 under President George W Bush. He was then Under Secretary at the US Commerce Department.

However, India-US relations have undergone a paradigm shift since then. Bilateral ties between both the democracies have escalated to a level where US now recognises India its ‘Major Defence Partner’.

The first task of the new Ambassador will be to push as many as big-ticket defence deals as possible because defence technology is where US commands global competition, sources told BusinessLine .

US President Trump has made it clear that he is keen on selling the Sea Guardian unmanned drones to India in a deal worth $2 billion. The decision was announced during the summit meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump on June 26.

But India has been dragging its feet on it even as it faces a resource crunch. This deal is crucial for the US because if this goes through it will be the first big defence deal to be sealed under the Trump government, source said. Apart from this, US is leaving no stone unturned to grab the $10-billion single-engine fighter jet deal for Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70. Trump has said he will not have issues if the planes are manufactured here.

The US is also anxiously waiting to establish an institutional dialogue mechanism with India under the ‘2+2 Ministerial’ that is expected to be held early next year.

Juster has also headed PE firm Warburg Pincus. The US industry has high hopes that he will be able to strengthen the bilateral trading relationship between both countries, which continues to face hurdles as both sides aim to achieve $500 billion bilateral trade.

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