Biswal doesn’t deal with Pakistan at US State Department

us state dept   Nisha Desai Biswal, the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. State Department has nothing to do – officially – with Pakistan, and even in the group of south/central Asian countries that an assistant secretary is tasked to deal with Pakistan (and Afghanistan) is not included.

She is the top U.S. diplomat responsible for the region and Secretary of State John Kerry’s principal adviser on matters affecting countries in the area. Her portfolio includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The two most volatile nations in the region which the United States has major stakes, Afghanistan and Pakistan, both noted Muslim nations which have conflicts with Hindu India, come under the purview of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (currently Ambassador James Dobbins) and formally oversees U.S. relations with these two countries.

Obama administration had the foresight and wisdom not to include Muslim Pakistan in a portfolio of a state department official who is of Indian origin. When Pakistan and India have perennial issues of conflict no sane government appoint an Indian-origin official to handle issues that involve Pakistan.

Her predecessor, Robert Blake, had Afghanistan and Pakistan under his jurisdiction, and travelled to those two nations, despite Obama administration appointed a special envoy to deal with issues of the two nations. Mr. Blake in fact dealt with issues which emerged between India and Pakistan.

The Indian-origin Nisha Desai Biswal is not tasked to undertake that.

In a recent address, April 14, to an audience at the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard Ms. Biswal admitted she has nothing to do with Pakistan.

Addressing the topic U.S. Foreign Policy in South Asia: A Vision for Prosperity and Security she said: “Now clearly the biggest constraint to boosting trade and energy flows is in addressing the barriers between India and Pakistan. Indeed,while I don’t currently have responsibility for Pakistan, I can say we are encouraged by the economic progress that Pakistan has made in the past year, though it still faces many challenges ahead. And an improved climate between Pakistan and its largest neighbor can pay enormous economic dividends. India-Pakistan trade in 2013 was still a paltry $2.5 billion. There’s no reason that number can’t quadruple in a few years’ time to $10 billion. We have heard some positive murmurings in Islamabad and Delhi that both governments are moving in this direction and we are hopeful that they will make progress after the Indian election”.

During her visit to New Delhi, in her interview with Times Now on 06 March (2014) she made general/vague references to Pakistan, and India-Pakistan relations. On this official visit to India she toured Bangladesh but not Pakistan.

(Quote) Times Now: You spoke about Pakistan, you spoke about greater links between India and Pakistan, do you see any difference, because America will monitor this very carefully, and America has some interest here. An NDA government, and this NDA government that could come in the near future, how different do you see this NDA governments view of Pakistan compared to Manmohan Singh’s government, and how will America…

Assistant Secretary Biswal: Again, I think you are getting into hypothetical that I don’t think are particularly useful to engage in. I think we will engage with an Indian government irrespective of what political party wins the election. In all of the broad areas of interest between the two countries, we have a deep interest in seeing a region that is integrated and trading with each other. We think that is of interest of the people of India, we certainly think it’s in the interest of the people of Pakistan. It also is in the interest of the broader region. So if there are opportunities between the two countries to expand trade, we would support that. Certainly, it has always been our opinion that these issues need to be worked out bilaterally between the two countries.

Times Now: Finally, how do you see the situation in Pakistan? India is worried about all the tensions, because things have got worse and worse over a period of time.

Assistant Secretary Biswal: You know we have been working very closely with our Pakistani friends on ensuring that we can help meet the aspirations of the Pakistani people, for a safe, secure and prosperous society. And, we have been working with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and supporting his vision for a Pakistan that is stable and prosperous and provides hope and opportunity to all of its citizens. We think that that is a vision that is a powerful one and we want to do everything we can to help him succeed in that vision. (End Quote)

The official for the Obama administration who acts as the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan is Ambassador James F. Dobbins.

His Principal Deputy who sits in Washington’s State Department but assigned within the Bureau of South/Central Asian Affairs is Daniel F. Feldman who is responsible and answerable only to Ambassador Dobbins.

What Does This Mean?

Very strategically with broad foresight, the Obama administration gave the handling of Pakistan and Afghanistan to another instead placing it under an official who is of Indian-origin. Dealing issues connected to India and Pakistan, and of Afghanistan, the United States used its ‘simple common sense’ not to appoint an official the two Muslim nations may visualize as partial toward India.

India and Pakistan, and even Afghanistan and India, have ruptured relations. To approach the Afghans and Pakistanis the best common sense is not to allow an India-origin official to represent the U.S. on issues connected to all four nations. (defence.pk)

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