Trump urged to nominate Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia

WASHINGTON, May 17: Democratic members of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday urged President Donald Trump to nominate Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, an important diplomatic post that has been vacant in the 28 months of his administration.

This is for the first time in the history of the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asia that this critical position has remained vacant for so long. Indian-American Nisha Desai Biswal was the last diplomat to hold this position in the Obama Administration, which she left on January 20.

“The position has remained without a confirmed appointee since the beginning of the Trump Administration, hampering the State Department’s ability to conduct diplomacy and shape policy in a critical region of the world,” Democratic lawmakers from the House Foreign Affairs Committee said.

“The State Department’s lack of senior-level involvement on a variety of matters related to South Asia has been deeply disturbing,” said the letter which among others was signed by Congressman Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“From the failure of the Department’s senior officials to engage directly with Sri Lankan government officials during the country’s October-December 2018 constitutional crisis, to the Department’s failure to form a coherent India policy, to the mishandling of the US-Afghanistan relationship in the midst of seeking a peace deal with the Taliban, it is clear that American leadership — when it is needed most — is missing in action,” the letter said.

“We believe that these failures are at least in part the result of not having a confirmed Assistant Secretary,” rued the Democratic lawmakers including Indian American Congressman Dr Ami Bera.

Noting that candidates with deep South Asia experience in and outside of the State Department have been considered for the Assistant Secretary position, the lawmakers said so it is difficult to understand why it remains unfilled.

“We strongly urge you to nominate a qualified individual to fill this critical Assistant Secretary position as soon as possible,” they said.

Stressing that having no Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia “more than two years into your term is not acceptable”, the Congressmen said the absence of a confirmed official to lead the Department’s efforts at advancing some of American’s most important relationships, including with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, has had a demonstrably negative impact on US interests and regional stability in South Asia. (PTI)