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Ex-Doordarshan anchor on track to join Obama admn

By Aziz Haniffa
February 06, 2010 09:31 IST
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Secunderabad-born Suresh Kumar, who was also a former Doordarshan sports and news anchor 30 years ago, is on track to becoming the senior-most Indian American in the department of commerce when his nomination by President Obama to be assistant secretary of commerce and director general of the United States and Foreign Commerce Service, sailed through two key US senate committees.

The senate banking committee and commerce committee approved Kumar's nomination, which was buoyed by a rousing introduction of Kumar by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, where Kumar has resided since 1993, and it's now the full senate that has got to vote on his nomination, and sources said he could be in place in his job at commerce by late this month or early March.

Kumar told, "I am rearing to go and put into effect all of my ideas and priorities on my agenda to help US businesses seeking to expand overseas. "I couldn't wait to be confirmed (by the full Senate)," he said, declaring that "the momentum has to be there, otherwise it gets boring."

Kumar said, "Fortunately or unfortunately, I happen to be one of only 6 per cent of cases having to go through two committees. Everyone, generally only goes through one, like Raj (Shah, administrator of the US agency for international development) and Richard (Verma, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs)."

"But this is because of the vastness and the jurisdiction of the portfolio I guess that I have to go through two (committees)," he added. "So each one had to schedule their vote at their own time, each one does their mark-up on their own time, and now it depends on the floor vote."

While Shah is the senior-most Indian American in the Obama administration, once Kumar is confirmed, along with Verma, he would be the second senior-most ranking Indian American in US government, unprecedented in the annals of Indian American history where this many senior level members of the community serve in the government, although community leaders have vowed not to rest till there is an Indian American named to the cabinet.

Kumar, in his testimony, said that as he prepared his remarks, "I could not help but reflect on the incredible journey from Mumbai via Indonesia, Singapore and Canada that brought me to the USA 16 years ago."

"I stand before you as a first generation immigrant and a testimony to our great country. It has provided my family and me the opportunities most could have only dreamed about. If I am confirmed for this position, you will have given me the opportunity to repay a small measure of the debt to a country that has already given me and my family so much," he said.

Kumar said that "the value and values of free and fair trade are embedded in my DNA," and reiterated that "if I am confirmed, I pledge to help American enterprise

enhance its competitiveness and grow its global footprint, to increase US exports and help create jobs, and to protect our interests, patents and intellectual property that are so critical to encourage innovation and support technological advancements particularly in emerging technologies in the environment, energy and healthcare sectors."

He pledged to "leverage my experience and passion in international business to maximize the efforts of the US Commerce Service in increasing the global competitiveness of the American business community, with a particular focus on small and medium enterprises."

"I will work tirelessly with the wonderful trade professionals throughout the extensive global network of US Export Assistance Centres in over 100 US cities and in US embassies and consulates across 77 countries to increase US exports, and by doing so, to create good American jobs," he added.

Earlier, while introducing his family, Kumar got quite emotional when he spoke of his parents "Colonel Sundaram and Vasantha, who instilled in our entire family the importance of public service."

He said, "Although they cannot be present here today, thanks to technological advancement that makes the world a global village, broadband and bandwidth permitting, they are watching these proceedings via webcast from their home in Delhi."

Once Kumar, who was nominated by President Obama in October is confirmed, along with his son, Aditya Kumar, they would perhaps be the only father and son serving in the same US Administration. Aditya Kumar, the former chief financial officer for Obama for America, which was President Obama's presidential campaign, is currently special assistant to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Director of Special Projects.

The White House announcement on his nomination by Obama also stated: "Between 1970 and 1985, Kumar was a news anchor on national television in India."

Asked about this, he said that he was a sports commentator and anchor for Doordarshan, "doing what they call the sports round-up, and then moved on to do the news from the 1970s through the 1980s."

"Doordarshan, was the only news channel at that time -- so one news channel reaching to almost a billion people," he said.

He founded KaiZen in January 2004 and from 2006 to 2007, served as special adviser to the Clinton Foundation, working closely with the principals and governments in sub-Saharan Africa to establish private-public partnerships to stimulate economic development in the region. He focussed on developing agriculture related initiatives, inputs and infrastructure to promote food security, nutrition and health.

Kumar's initiatives led to large scale use of fertilizers in Rwanda for the first time, resulting in increased crop yield and food surplus, helping small holder farmers realize four-fold return on input investment in test regions.

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