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Indian confirmed for prestigious Treasury job

August 06, 2008 23:07 IST

Neel Kashkari, who was nominated by President George W Bush to the post of Assistant Secretary of Treasury for International Affairs, has been confirmed by the Senate and has begun work in his new job, even if it is only for the next six months.

The Akron, Ohio-born Kashkari told rediff.com that in the next few months he would zero in "on a number of initiatives critical to ensuring United States and global economic strength," and that his responsibilities would "include managing issues related to foreign investment in the United States, as well as overseeing regionally-focused international affairs priorities.

"I especially look forward to reaffirming America's commitment to open investment, which stimulates growth, creates jobs, enhances productivity and improves competitiveness," he said.

As relates to India, Kashkari said he had identified five areas that the Treasury Department sees as containing significant opportunities for both nations: "promoting infrastructure investment, increasing financial sector liberalisation, supporting a bilateral investment framework, investing in clean technology, and supporting multilateral trade."

Sources told rediff.com Kashkari is one of the lead negotiators in ongoing discussions between senior US and Indian officials on the possibility of negotiating a bilateral investment treaty. They, however, acknowledged that the chances of such a treaty "getting past first base, let along being signed in the final months of this administration is highly unlikely. But at least the spadework is being done and the seeds have been planted and the template would have been put in place, if the new administration wants to run with it," the source said.

Kashkari, whose parents — father Chaman, a retired professor of engineering, and mother Sheila, a pathologist — hail from Kashmir, was formerly vice president at Goldman Sachs in San Francisco, where he led the firm's IT Security Investment Banking practice, advising public and private companies on mergers and acquisitions and financial transactions.

Prior to his career in finance, that culminated in the current assignment that makes him one of the most senior Indian Americans in the Bush administration, the Wharton School of Business alumnus was an R&D Principal Investigator at TRW in Redondo Beach, California, where he developed technology for NASA space science missions like the James Webb Space Telescope, the replacement for Hubble, which is scheduled for launch in 2013.

When he appeared for his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs chaired by Senator Chris Dodd (Connecticut Democrat), Kashkari said since joining the Treasury Department in July 2006, he had led several policy initiatives including 'promoting Indian financial sector liberalisation and free trade through strengthened economic engagement and increased infrastructure investment.'

He said that in his role as senior advisor to Secretary Henry Paulson, he had 'been responsible for developing and executing international and domestic policies for the department to foster a more conducive investment climate for the US as well as the support of global economic growth.'

The Indian American Republican Council, through its spokesman Dino Teppara, hailed the formalisation of Kashkari's appointment. Teppara said recent high-level nominations like that of Sandy Baruah as the new Administrator of the Small Business Administration and now Kashkari, "demonstrates that President Bush continues to be a true friend of Indians Americans."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC