INDIAN American Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, was today named by US President-elect Donald Trump to be country’s ambassador to the United Nations.
The daughter of Indian immigrants, the 44-year-old politician is a rising star in the Republican Party’s right wing. She has been governor of South Carolina since 2011.
Haley was the first woman to be picked for Trump’s cabinet, injecting a measure of diversity in a group that until now has consisted solely of white men.
“Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” the Republican president-elect said in the statement.
Trump’s transition team highlighted her travel abroad as governor to negotiate with international companies on behalf of her state.
“The United States faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally, and I am honored that the President-elect has asked me to join his team,” Haley said in a statement, accepting the offer.
An Asian-American with little previous foreign policy experience, Haley, sharply criticised Trump during the presidential campaign over his harsh rhetoric about illegal immigrants and for not speaking forcefully enough against white supremacists.
She supported Senator Marco Rubio during the Republican primary race before endorsing Senator Ted Cruz.
Haley led an effort last year to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol after the killing of nine black churchgoers in Charleston. The flag was carried by pro-slavery Confederate forces during the US Civil War and is viewed by many as a racist emblem.
She condemned Trump during the Republican presidential primary campaign for not disavowing the support of white supremacist group Ku Klux Klan and one of its former leaders, David Duke.
In her rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January, Haley called for tolerance on immigration and civility in politics in what some saw as a rebuke of Trump.
“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices,” she said. “We must resist that temptation.”
In the early days of the primary contest to pick this year’s Republican presidential nominee primary, Haley was mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick.
She rose to prominence after the former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed her in a Republican primary during her campaign for governor in 2010, part of an effort to tap female candidates from the extreme-right Tea Party movement.
Haley, a state lawmaker before becoming governor, has little experience in foreign relations.
According to the Post and Courier of Charleston, her international experience involves negotiating development deals with international companies who want to work in South Carolina. She has led seven overseas trade missions as governor, it reported.
Haley’s husband, Michael, was deployed for nearly a year in Afghanistan with the South Carolina National Guard in 2013, said the Post and Courier, which first reported Haley had been picked for the job.
Haley faces a tough challenge at the United Nations during a time of international uncertainty over Trump’s promises to scale back Washington’s central role in global security.
A veto-wielding member of the UN’s Security Council, the United States frequently clashes with Russia – another veto-holder in the council – over developments in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere. Although Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have praised each other, saying they want to improve relations, few foreign policy experts believe Moscow will ultimately end its opposition to US policy.
Haley’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.
She would succeed Obama’s UN envoy, Samantha Power, in the high-profile position.