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NEW DELHI: US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to nominate his closest foreign policy adviser Antony J Blinken for the post of US Secretary of State or US top diplomat, the New York Times reported on Monday.

Blinken, described by the NYT as a defender of global alliances, is expected to try and coalesce skeptical international partners into a new competition with China, the report said.

The 58-year old former deputy secretary of state under former Democratic Party president Barack Obama began his career at the State Department during the Clinton administration. His extensive foreign policy credentials are expected to help calm American diplomats and global leaders alike after four years of the Trump administration, it said.

The report also added that Biden could name another close aide, Jake Sullivan, 43, as his national security adviser. Sullivan had succeeded Blinken as then Vice President Biden’s national security adviser. He also served as the head of policy planning at the State Department under the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, becoming her closest strategic adviser.

Blinken and Sullivan are seen as good friends with a common worldview. Analysts in India have welcomed the possibility of the duo shepherding US foreign policy under Biden.

“If this were to happen, it will be a positive development from India’s point of view," said former Indian ambassador to the US, Arun K Singh.

Singh who was also India’s deputy chief of mission in Washington and interacted with Blinken and Sullivan as deputy ambassador and ambassador between 2008-2016, said that in their previous stints in the Obama-Biden administration, both Blinken and Sullivan were “very supportive" of India-US relations and viewed ties with a long term strategic perspective.

India views the US as a vital foreign policy partner given that the US is the pre-eminent power in the world. New Delhi has been seeking US support for pressuring Pakistan to clamp down on terrorism. New Delhi and Washington also see eye to eye on China as a key strategic challenge for both. Analysts say that while Washington maybe less strident in its criticism of China under Biden, it is clear that in substance, there will be no change under the incoming administration. US businesses, with interests in China, could also help in the tempering of criticism.

News reports from the US earlier had said that former US national security advisor Susan Rice was also in the running for the post of Secretary of State in the Biden administration. But given that she was under a cloud over the death of US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, it was unlikely that the Senate dominated by Republicans would have cleared her for the job.

Key among Blinken’s new priorities would be to re-establish the US as a trusted ally ready to rejoin global agreements and institutions — among them the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the World Health Organization — all of which the US walked out of under incumbent president Donald Trump.

In comments made at the Hudson Institute think tank in July, Blinken had said that the US was not in a position to take on challenges at the climate change and the covid-19 pandemic on its own. According to the NYT, this is “likely to mean diplomatic time spent forging stronger ties with India and across the Indo-Pacific region, where 14 nations recently signed one of the world’s largest free trade agreements with China. It could also mean an effort to deepen engagement across Africa, where China has made inroads with technology and infrastructure investments, and recognize Europe as a partner of ‘first resort, not last resort, when it comes to contending with the challenges we face,’" Blinken was quoted as saying at the Hudson Institute.

Among other appointments, Biden is expected to name Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year US foreign service veteran as his ambassador to the UN. Biden is expected to restore the post to cabinet-level status after it was downgraded by Trump. It would give Thomas-Greenfield a seat on his National Security Council, the NYT said.

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