US President-elect Joe Biden has picked veteran diplomat and his long-time adviser Antony Blinken as the United States secretary of state designate. Joe Biden's first wave of Cabinet picks were expected to be announced on Tuesday, 24 November, amid the thick of ongoing obstruction to the political transition process from sitting president Donald Trump.
“We have no time to lose when it comes to our national security and foreign policy. I need a team ready on Day One to help me reclaim America’s seat at the head of the table, and rally the world to meet the biggest challenges we face, and advance our security, prosperity, and values.”Joe Biden, US President-elect
Kamala Harris, who will be the Vice President, described Blinken as "crisis-tested" and among the "best of America".
Who is Antony Blinken?
Antony Blinken served as Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor when the latter was the Vice-President during the Obama administration.
Born in New York, 58-year-old Blinken practiced law briefly and entered politics in the late 1980s. He had helped Democrat Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign raise money, reported Reuters. Following this, Blinken joined Democratic President Bill Clinton’s White House as a speechwriter and became one of his national security aides.
Blinken was elevated to the post of Deputy Secretary of State in the second term of the Obama administration. Following the Obama administration, Blinken co-founded WestExec Advisors, a political strategy firm, with a top Obama-era Pentagon official, Michele Flournoy, reported Bloomberg.
What Does His Appointment Mean for India?
Considered a ‘strong India-hand’, Blinken had spoken during the virtual celebration of India's Independence Day organised by the Biden Campaign. During the event, Blinken reportedly said that Biden has long been a champion of stronger ties with India.
"But if you go back 15 years, Joe Biden had a vision for the future of US-India relations. In 2006, he said, my dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States,” he had said, reported PTI. Blinken had reportedly added:
“Well, we’re not quite there, but it’s a terrific vision, and one that I know, he will act, to realise, as president of the United States. … He was the driving force of the lifting of nuclear sanctions on India, and then the passage of this landmark India civil nuclear deal. And this is something I got to see up close and personal with him in the, in the Senate.”Antony Blinken as quoted by PTI
While speaking at the Hudson Institute in July 2020, Blinken had reportedly said that India is "fair, stable, and hopefully increasingly democratic and it's vital to being able to tackle some of these big global challenges." He also addressed the differences Biden has with India over Kashmir and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act during the same event and said,
“You’re always better engaging with a partner and a vitally important one like India, when you can speak frankly and directly about areas where you have differences even as you’re working to build greater cooperation and strengthen the relationship going forward. That would be the approach and again, I think we’ve seen evidence that it works.”Antony Blinken as quoted by IANS
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act could still crop up as a sore topic between the Biden and Modi governments.
Picks for Other Key Posts
Jake Sullivan, a former close aide of Hillary Clinton, has been nominated as the National Security Adviser. Forty-three-year-old Sullivan has also reportedly served a stint as Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser when he was vice president.
Another key designation was of former Secretary of State John Kerry as the special presidential envoy for climate and as a member of the National Security Council, highlighting the high-level of importance Biden places on environment.
Alejandro Mayorkas is the designee for Secretary of Homeland Security, Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as permanent representative to the United Nations with cabinet rank.
Biden said in televised remarks last week that he has already decided on his Treasury pick, someone who will be agreeable "for both the moderate and progressive sides of the party."
(With inputs from IANS)