Kenneth Juster, the Trump Administration’s Ambassador to India, has made it quite clear that he has no intention of fulfilling his pre-confirmation pledges to promote US national interests and personally intervene with the Indian Government to expedite the recovery of our World War II MIAs from their numerous documented crash sites in India. For this reason, Ambassador Juster needs to be relieved of his duties immediately.Ambassador Juster has clearly failed to adhere to the pledges he made at the time of his Senate confirmation hearing to make the recovery of these heros’ remains one of his top priorities. In his statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing considering his nomination, Mr. Juster rightly stated that “the first priority of a U.S. ambassador is to promote U.S. national interests.” https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/100317_Juster_Testimony.pdf That the recovery and repatriation of our war dead is a national interest is undeniable. Shortly after his Senate confirmation hearing, on October 31, 2017, Ambassador Juster made specific pledges to Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Marco Rubio that he would personally press the Indian Government on the issue of MIA recoveries:Question: “Mr. Juster, do you commit to support the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in working with the Government of India to recover the remains of unaccounted U.S. military personnel in India, including those lost in Arunachal Pradesh near the Indo-China border? Will you help facilitate any efforts between the United States and the Government of India until all of those missing American personnel are returned home?”Answer: “I firmly believe that we owe a deep debt of gratitude to those members of our armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. If confirmed, I will work closely with the U.S. Department of Defense and the Government of India to support the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s efforts to locate and recover the remains of U.S. military personnel lost inIndia in World War II. “ (Source: Email, dated Tue, Oct 31, 2017 11:11 am, Subject: Kenneth Juster, from Greg Langowski, Regional Director, Office of United States Senator Marco Rubio to Andrea Plescia of Coral Gables, Florida.)
Tragically for the families of our Arunachal missing in action, however, Ambassador Juster’s tenure to date has shown that these commitments he made mean nothing to him. Here are the facts in support of this contention.(1) It has been almost three years since Ambassador Juster assumed his post as United States Ambassador to India on November 23, 2017. During that time the remains of only three of the estimated 400 USAAF servicemen who died in World War II air crashes in India’s Arunachal Pradesh state and remain unaccounted for have been recovered and identified: PFC Joseph I. Natvik of Madison, Wisconsin (identified September 24, 2018), 1st Lt. Allen R. Turner of Brookline, Massachusetts (identified September 24, 2018), and 2nd Lt. Toney Gochnauer of Amarillo, Texas (identified May 15, 2019). This pathetically low number of identifications is a dismal low point of Ambassador Juster’s tenure. As America’s most senior official in India, Ambassador Juster is ultimately responsible for the failure of American MIA recovery efforts in India and the continuation of the “intermittent” and “slow at best” pace of recoveries, as described in June 2017 by the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, Congressman George Holding of North Carolina. (2) Mr. Juster has demonstrated during his tenure in India that he is biased in favor of India and is therefore neither able nor willing to effectively advocate for the interests of the families of US MIAs still unrecovered in India. When Kenneth Juster was nominated by the Trump Administration to be Ambassador to India, the Indian press warmly welcomed his appointment, citing his well-known reputation as a “pro-India” official. India Today wrote that “Juster has been a pro-India voice ever since he was an Under-secretary in the US Department of Commerce in the George W Bush administration. The US-India Business Council awarded him with the Blackwill Award in 2004 for his contributions to India-US relations.” (https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/india-us-relations-donald-trump-kenneth-juster-ambassador-984027-2017-06-22) At the time of his confirmation hearing, Ambassador-designate Juster made no mention whatsoever of the Indian Government’s mediocre-to-poor level of cooperation with US Government efforts to recover its war dead (https://www.foreign.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/100317_Juster_Testimony.pdf), which had been documented persuasively earlier in 2017 by Rep. George Holding, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans and one of India’s most prominent advocates in the U. S. Congress.
It was only after Senator Marco Rubio submitted questions to Juster on the issue after the hearing’s conclusion did Juster feel compelled to make a pledge that he would actively press the Government of India to speed up MIA recoveries in India. Unsurprisingly, in view of his pro-India bias, Ambassador-designate Kenneth Juster failed to follow through on that pledge. His inaugural policy address didn’t include even a single mention of the issue. (US Embassy and Consulates in India, Full Transcript: Ambassador Kenneth I. Juster’s Inaugural Policy Address, 12 January 2018, https://in.usembassy.gov/full-transcript-ambassador-kenneth-justers-inaugural-policy-address/teitonedia). In spite of the fact that Ambassador Juster has made a multitude of speeches during his tenure as Ambassador, none of those speeches even tangentially refer to the issue of unrecovered US airmen in India. In spite of the fact that Ambassador Juster has met with Indian Government officials many times, none of those meetings appear to have included the issue of MIA recoveries in India on their agendas (based on press reports).(3) In late 2018, Senator Marco Rubio, Rep. Matt Gaetz, and Rep. Jim Jordan sent a letter to Ambassador Juster on behalf of constituents of theirs with loved ones who died in the crash of the USAAF B-25 “Blackie’s Gang” in northeast India during World War II. The crash site of this aircraft had been discovered on 9 November 2011 in the northeast Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh by MIA Recoveries President Clayton Kuhles, but the US Government had made no attempt to recover the bodies of the crew in the seven years since that discovery. The letter sought information from Ambassador Juster on when a recovery operation might be attempted.Ambassador Juster replied to that letter on December 17, 2018. One of the most striking things about Ambassador Juster’s letter is what he DIDN’T say in it:
1. Ambassador Juster didn’t express in the letter any commitment by the US Government to recovering the Blackie’s Gang crash site.
2. Ambassador Juster didn’t claim to have personally spoken with ANY Indian Government official about MIA recovery operations in India. Nor did he claim that ANY member of the Embassy staff had ever spoken with any such Indian Government official. If he or any member of his staff had spoken to an Indian Government official, he undoubtedly would have made a point of that in his letter. If Ambassador Juster or one of his Embassy subordinates HAD spoken to Indian Government officials about MIA recoveries, this personal involvement would have carried MUCH more weight with the Indian Government than any approach to the Indian Government by a lowly DPAA official. An Ambassador’s attention to an issue generally carries great weight with a host country’s government, and India is no exception.
3. Ambassador Juster didn’t reference any public statements he has made since becoming US Ambassador on 2 November 2017 on the need to significantly accelerate the tempo of MIA recovery operations in India. There’s a good reason he didn’t. He couldn’t, because he simply hasn’t made any!
4. Since the day he officially became Ambassador to India on November 23, 2017, Kenneth Juster has spent a significant portion of his time there visiting well-known tourist locations, including Bengaluru, Ladakh, Leh, Mumbai, Madhya Pradesh, Kalinga, Kolkata, Rajasthan, Lucknow, Goa, Punjab, Hyderabad, Odisha, and Dharamsala. He’s even visited India’s remote Northeast, making excursions to Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh. But the families of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action still wait for him to visit even one of the fifteen documented US crash sites in India’s Arunachal Pradesh, where the vast majority of the bodies of approximately 400 unrecovered US airmen in India still lie unburied. His failure to do so in the months since he became Ambassador clearly demonstrates how little value Ambassador Juster attaches to the mission of recovering the bodies of US airmen who died in Arunachal Pradesh.
Ambassador Juster’s failure to personally involve himself reflects the abysmally low priority he and his Embassy attach to MIA recoveries in India, relative to other matters, such as selling more arms to the Indian military, expediting joint military exercises with the Indian military, promoting Indian tourism sites, and achieving lucrative commercial contracts for US companies in India.
Clearly, Ambassador Juster doesn’t have the time or the interest to press the matter personally, especially considering how much time he spends (a lot!) making sure he gets photographed playing India’s favorite sports, such as cricket and soccer! ( https://theprint.in/zero-hour/the-us-ambassador-to-india-is-in-love-with-cricket/64463/)
It’s clear from Ambassador Juster’s letter and his failure to visit any of the documented US crash sites in Arunachal Pradesh that he has either conveniently forgotten his Senate confirmation pledge, or considers it so insignificant as to be irrelevant to his work in India. It is clearly evident that because Ambassador Juster has failed to follow through on his pledges to the families of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action that he needs to be relieved of his duties and replaced by someone who sincerely has the interests of these families at heart.
Gary Zaetz, Chairman of Families and Supporters of America’s Arunachal Missing in Action