Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs: Who Is Nisha Desai Biswal?
President Barack Obama has nominated an Indian-American woman to be the next assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia Affairs. Assistant administrator for Asia at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) since September 2010, Nisha Desai Biswal will be the first person of South Asian origin to head the bureau, which normally oversees relations with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Because of the U.S. war, however, since 2008 relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan have been handled separately by a special U.S. Representative. If confirmed by the Senate, Biswal would succeed Robert Blake, who has served in the post since May 2009.
Born in 1968 in the State of Gujarat, India, Nisha Desai Biswal is the daughter of Kanu and Lata Desai, who emigrated from rural India. “As first generation immigrants, our parents journeyed far from rural India to pursue the American Dream and a better life for their children. We are grateful for their continued sacrifices on our behalf,” Biswal has said. She earned a B.A. in International Relations at the University of Virginia in 1989.
After working in public relations for a short time, Biswal worked for the American Red Cross from 1993 to 1995, both at the Washington, DC, headquarters and as an overseas delegate in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Shifting to government service, Biswal served at USAID from 1995 to 1999 in several capacities, including special assistant to the administrator, chief of staff in the Management Bureau and in the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, and the Office of Transition Initiatives.
Biswal served on the professional staff of the House International Relations Committee from 1999 to 2002, where she was responsible for South and Central Asia policy, as well as oversight of the State Department and USAID.
From 2002 to 2005, she served as the policy and advocacy director at InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based international humanitarian and development nongovernmental organizations.
Returning to Capitol Hill, Biswal served from 2005 to 2010 as the majority clerk for the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, where she provided staff support regarding appropriation and oversight of the U.S. international affairs budget.
Biswal has been a member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China since March 2011.
She is married to Subrat Biswal, with whom she has two daughters, Safya and Kaya.
To Learn More:
Obama Nominates Indian-American Nisha Biswal as Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia (by Chidanand Rajghatta, Times of India)
NRI Heads US State Dept’s South Asia Section (by Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times)
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