Time to have separate India Office at State Department: report

Time to have separate India Office at State Department: report

In its latest report, the State Department's Inspector General while making a strong pitch for an India Office noted that even countries of comparable importance and with important bilateral relationships, such as China, Japan and Pakistan hAve their own offices. The India Desk falls under State Department's South and Central Asia Bureau.
The report also said that currently no single office director is focussed entirely on the goal of expanding the relationship with India, despite the priority for this in US foreign policy. "The office director must deal with five other countries, whose relationships with the US are also complex."

It has also recommended the reunion of the South and Central Asia Bureau with that Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) that was carved out when US President Barack Obama appointed Richard Holbrooke as his point man for Afghanistan and Pakistan. But, such a move only created duplicity, it said.

Currently, the India desk is combined with the desks for five other countries, including Bangladesh. But, the report said it is the practice of the Department of State to provide a separate office for the countries with which the United States has robust, complex relationships.

"Nations of comparable importance and with important bilateral relationships, such as China (including Mongolia), Russia, Cuba, Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, have their own offices," it said.

The Inspector General concluded that time has come to give serious consideration to creating a separate office for India and Bhutan, alongside a separate office for the other countries in SCA/INSB office.

"Over the last 15 years, the US relationship with India has both expanded and deepened, but no action has been taken to adjust the design of organisational units to accommodate the changed situation," it pointed out.

In middle of 2009, when a new Assistant Secretary arrived, there were only two officers to conduct the business of the India desk, it said.

"The office director spends about three quarters of his time on Indian affairs, and the deputy office director and secretary spend half of their time on Indian affairs.

"In comparison, offices for such countries as China and Mongolia, Korea, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have staffs in the range of 15 to 25 employees.

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