Virginia Senator Mark R Warner, a Democrat considered close to New Delhi, would co-chair the Senate-India Caucus in the new US Congress, replacing his veteran party colleague Chris Dodd who did not seek re-election in the recent mid-term polls.
55-year-old Warner, a former Virginia Governor, would be co-charing the Senate-India Caucus with Republican John Cornyn from Texas. He replaced Dodd, the longest serving Democratic Senator from Connecticut and a close friend of US President Barack Obama. Dodd, who did not seek re-election during the recently held mid-term polls, heads the Senate Banking Committee. He had succeeded Hillary Clinton, as co-chair of the Senate- India Caucus, after she was appointed as Secretary of State by Obama in January 2008.
Though a junior Senator from Virginia, Warner is considered a friend of India in the US Senate. With him co-chairing the Senate-India Caucus, the interest of India in the US Congress is expected to be well protected. "Mark (Warner) and I happen to be the Chairs of the India Caucus in the United States Senate that Mark will be starting January the 1st taking over from Chris Dodd. "So we, I think, we both applaud the (US) President's travel there (India), his commitment to free trade and making sure that India, the world's largest democracy, represents one of our strongest trading partners," Cornyn said on Sunday in an interview to the CNN.
Warner, who along with Cornyn appeared on CNN's State of the Union Sunday Talk Show, said: "I think it's good to see the President abroad, standing up for America and pushing back on folks like China, who I believe have been manipulating their currency and putting American business at a disadvantage. I want to see a free trade pact with Korea as well." "We've got to recognise that the challenge we face in this global economy is, in the past, the rest of the world had to wait for America to get its economy or its political act together. But right now, there's 1 billion people in India and 1 billion people in China. They are rushing ahead, they've got a plan. We've got to make sure that part of that plan includes selling them our stuff so that we can grow our economy through exports," he said.
Cornyn said he was glad that the President went to India and three other Asia countries to talk about free trade. "I wish we had passed the three pending free trade agreements that have been languishing in Congress because the administration hadn't gotten behind them yet. I hope this represents a change in approach to recognising that markets abroad create jobs at home. So I'm really glad to see that," he said.
As Governor of Virginia, Warner had led a trade delegation to India which was considered to be highly successful. He was elected to the Senate in November 2008. As a member of the Senate's Banking Committee, he has been a key leader in bipartisan efforts to effectively update oversight of Wall Street and end taxpayer bailouts of failing financial firms.
He is also viewed as a tireless champion of small businesses on Main Street, working effectively with the White House on creative solutions to try to increase the flow of credit to small businesses that continue to struggle in this tough economy.
Born in Indiana, Warner was raised in Connecticut. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college, earning an undergraduate degree from The George Washington University and a law degree from Harvard. He co-founded the cellular phone company Nextel and made early investments in hundreds of promising new companies that ultimately created thousands of jobs.
From 2002 to 2006, Warner served as Governor of Virginia during its worst economic recession in 20 years. He worked in
a bipartisan way to make Virginia state government more modern, effective and affordable, and his efforts ultimately turned record deficits into a budget surplus.
When Governor Warner left office in 2006, Virginia was nationally recognised as the country's "best-managed state" and the "best state for business."
Image: Senator Mark Warner
Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters