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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Obama nominates Indo-American to head crucial South Asia Bureau at US State Dept

President Barack Obama has nominated Indian-American Developmental Specialist Nisha Desai Biswal to head US State Department's South Asia bureau, which oversees US foreign policy and relations with crucial states such as India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  

If confirmed by the Senate, Desai will replace incumbent Robert Blake and become the first person of South Asian origin to head the bureau. 

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Biswal has enjoyed a long and successful career in several important international aid and development organizations, including the American Red Cross, Office of US Foreign Disaster  Assistance and USAID where she is the current Assistant Administrator For Asia.

Desai Biswal's nomination is however, bound to cause some consternation in Pakistan, whose previous ambassador Hussain Haqqani had once complained about the growing number of Indian-Americans in the Obama administration.

Nevertheless, both Ms Desai and her boss at USAID - fellow Indian American Rajiv Shah - have won wide praise for their work in Pakistan.

Desai Biswal's nomination came along with seven appointments for various senior administration posts at the undersecretary, assistant secretary and ambassadorship levels, accompanied by a Presidential statement saying, "It gives me great confidence that such dedicated and capable individuals have agreed to join this Administration to serve the American people. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come." The date for her confirmation hearing has not been set yet.

Ms Biswal began her professional career in Washington DC with the American Red Cross in the mid-90s before joining USAID for her first stint.

Whilst working with the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee from 1999 to 2002, she worked extensively with diplomats from South Asia before doing another stint with the NGO InterAction.

From 2005 to 2010, she was the Majority Clerk for the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee on the Committee on Appropriations in the US, a crucial position close to the purse strings of American foreign aid.

- Agencies

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