John Kerry gets Senate nod as next secretary of state

Washington, Jan 30 (IANS) Senator John Kerry, President Barack Obama's choice to replace Hillary Clinton as the next secretary of state, has been overwhelmingly confirmed by the US Senate.

Considered a friend of India who has advocated a "central role" for the country in international affairs, Kerry received 94 votes in favour with just three Republican Senators voting no Tuesday. Kerry voted present on his own nomination.

He is expected to be sworn in after Clinton steps down as America's top diplomat Friday.

Earlier in the day the longtime senator from Massachusetts and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee received the nod of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he has chaired since 2009. The panel approved his nomination unanimously by a voice vote.

"John has earned the respect of leaders around the world and the confidence of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and I am confident he will make an extraordinary secretary of state," Obama said in a statement.

If for Clinton Washington's relationship with New Delhi was an "affair of the heart", Kerry, 69, looks at India-US ties as "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 at the confirmation hearings for Obama's nominee to be the US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell in February.

"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," he then said.

"India's growing significance has been clear to many of us for some time now," said Kerry who has been to India many times since the 1990s when he took one of the first business trade missions to India right after its economic reforms.

Kerry, who has been a senator since 1984, was also a strong supporter of Obama's endorsement of India to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Kerry was born in Denver, on Dec 11, 1943, and he spent much of his childhood overseas. He lived in Berlin, and then went to a Swiss boarding school at age 11.

After graduating from Yale University in 1966, Kerry was deployed to Vietnam as a lieutenant in the US Navy.

Upon his return home in the early 1970s, Kerry ran his first political campaign, a losing effort for a congressional seat in Massachusetts 1972.

He eventually entered politics in 1982 as lieutenant governor under Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Two years later, Kerry won the US Senate seat he has held for five consecutive terms.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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