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Harris pick sparks delight in India and Jamaica

NEW DELHI — Well before dawn on Wednesday, the phone began to ring in Gopalan Balachandran’s home in India’s capital. It was his sister, calling from the other end of the country, and she had exceptionally good news to share: Their niece could become the next vice president of the United States.

When presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden announced that he had selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate, he made history: Harris is the first Black woman and the first Asian-American woman to join a major-party presidential ticket in the United States.

The news also rippled around the world. Harris is the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, and she spent much of her youth in Canada.


Harris’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan, went to the United States from India at the age of 19 to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of California Berkeley. There she met Donald Harris, a student from Jamaica who went on to teach economics at Stanford University.

Balachandran, Harris’s 80-year-old maternal uncle, laughed and proclaimed himself ‘‘very, very happy’’ with the news. Harris is ‘‘quick on her feet and a damn good debater,’’ he said.

When Harris was sworn in as a US senator, Balachandran traveled to Washington for the ceremony. Now he hopes to return in January, to see her become vice president of the United States.

There was also pride in Jamaica. Former prime minister P.J. Patterson said he and Donald Harris were classmates at the University of the West Indies. In the 1990s, Patterson appointed Harris to lead a unit developing a national industrial plan for the country.

He said Jamaica was excited by Kamala Harris’s selection.

‘‘We have watched her grow,’’ he said. ‘‘She has been incisive, she goes to the heart of the issue that has to be resolved, particularly at this time when the US itself is going through severe challenges — including, but not confined to, matters pertaining to race. It is good to have someone on the ticket who can look at that and who has ethnic origins.’’


Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith tweeted her congratulations to Harris on her ‘‘historic’’ selection: ‘‘Best wishes from our ‘big country on a little island!’ ’’