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'Powell tasked with one of US's important postings'

February 08, 2012 13:09 IST
United States Senator John F Kerry, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in convening the nomination hearing of Nancy J Powell to be the next US ambassador to India, said, America's partnership with India "is without doubt one of the most significant partnerships in US foreign policy."

"There are fewer relationships that will be as vital in the 21st century as our growing ties with India and its people," he said.

Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat and an erstwhile Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 who challenged President George W Bush and lost, said, "On all of the most critical global challenges that we face, India really has a central role to play. And that means that Washington is going to be looking to New Delhi not only for cooperation, but increasingly for innovation, for regional leadership."

"Given the significance of that relationship," he said, "We are particularly pleased that President Obama has nominated Nancy Powell to represent us in New Delhi."

Noting that Powell -- a former ambassador to both Nepal and Pakistan who has also served tours of duty in both India and Bangladesh, "making her one of the foremost South Asia experts in the Foreign Service" -- Kerry predicted, "She is one of our best and it is only appropriate that she be tasked with one of the State Department's most important postings."

"I think Ambassador Powell would agree with me that the US and India interests and values are converging today as perhaps never before. And consequently, America is an interested stakeholder in India's increasing ascent to greater economic and greater global power and participation."

Kerry said, "As our economies and education systems grow more intertwined -- and I'm convinced they will -- our peoples will have a greater opportunity to work together on technological breakthroughs. Already, India's playing a leading role in clean energy innovation."

In this regard, he said, "A report released last week found that India saw a 52 percent growth in clean energy investment in 2011 -- a rate higher than any other significant global economy. With leadership from companies like Suzlon and Reliance Solar, India has the world's fourth largest installed wind capacity and incredible solar energy potential."

Kerry reiterated, "It is clear that India's strategic role is also growing. We all agree that the dynamism of the Asia Pacific Region requires India's sustained presence and engagement, whether to combat nuclear proliferation, to promote economic stability in Afghanistan or to encourage human rights in Burma and Sri Lanka."

However, he acknowledged, "There is no doubt that even as India moves forward and even as we celebrate the pluses that I just enumerated, it is clear that India will also have to continue addressing its own complex domestic challenges, including the challenge of building its own infrastructure, of dealing with booming energy demand, of dealing with some restrictive trade and investment practices, and also the problem, which is not just India's but a global problem, of human trafficking."

"Moreover, there are some 500 to 600 million people living in poverty, but clearly India is moving rapidly through its own economic development to address that, and I'm confident that that will continue to change."

Echoing Kerry's sentiments, Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the committee, said, "I start from the premise that enhancing our relationship with India is a strategic and economic imperative."

Lugar spoke of how "the US and India are working to build a strategic partnership that will benefit both sides, and we have an ongoing cooperation with India on many fronts. This includes efforts to ensure security in South Asia."

"Energy cooperation between the United States and India should also be at the top of our bilateral agenda. India's energy needs are expected to double by the year 2025. The US has an interest in expanding energy cooperation with India to develop new technologies, cushion supply disruptions, address environmental problems and diversify global energy supplies. The US's own energy problems will be exacerbated if we do not forge entity partnerships with India and other nations experiencing rapid economic growth."

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC