Top diplomat Daniel Smith to head US embassy in New Delhi

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Daniel Smith will hold the post of charge d’affaires ad interim — or temporarily — till an Ambassador is appointed, reports Arul Louis

A former acting secretary of state, Daniel Smith, has been appointed as the head of US embassy in New Delhi, which has been without an Ambassador after Kenneth Juster left the post in January, according to State Department Spokesperson Ned Price.

Smith will hold the post of charge d’affaires ad interim — or temporarily — till an Ambassador is appointed, Price announced on Friday.

The appointment of Smith, who is among the senior-most career diplomats, is a measure of the importance the administration of President Joe Biden attaches to India.

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“Smith’s appointment underscores the United States’ strong commitment to our partnership with the Government of India and the Indian people. He will spearhead close cooperation with India to ensure that our countries continue to advance our shared priorities, including overcoming the global pandemic,” the announcement said.

Daniel Smith
Former US ambassador to India Kenneth Juster during his visit to the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata (IANS)

When Mike Pompeo, who was the secretary of state, and other political appointees in the top echelons of the State Department left when former President Donald Trump ended his term in January, Smith briefly took over as the acting secretary of state till Anthony Blinken was confirmed by the Senate.

Smith will take over from another career diplomat, Danie Heflin, who was appointed charge d’affaires after political appointee Juster quit when Trump left office.

Smith, who holds a PhD from Stanford University, was the director of the Foreign Service Institute that trains diplomats. Before that he had been the assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research and the ambassador to Greece.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

The New Delhi ambassadorship is considered a high profile post and 15 of the 23 ambassadors have been political appointees.

They have included distinguished personalities like former governors Richard Frank Celeste and Chester Bowles (who served twice), former members of Congress including Kenneth Keating, Sherman Cooper and William Saxbe, and public intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who had also been a senator.

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