Obama brings new leadership at White House for South Asia

Obama brings new leadership at White House for South Asia

President Barack Obama has roped in a well-known defence expert to head the South Asia desk at the National Security Council as his government wants to be India's best partner, withdraw troops from Afghanistan and wean away Pakistan from its policy of backing non-State actors.

Peter Lavoy, who earlier served in various key positions in Pentagon and intelligence agencies on South Asia, has been appointed to serve as Senior Director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.

In his new role, Lavoy will advise the President and National Security Advisor Susan Rice on national security and foreign policy matters related to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Maldives and coordinate US policies toward South Asia across the departments and agencies of the US Government.
Along with Lavoy, the White House has also appointed Joshua T White from the Stimson Center – a Washington-based think-tank - as Senior Advisor and Director for South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.

The White House did not respond to questions on when Lavoy and White would formally start their work.

Lavoy previously served as Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs and before that as Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis, Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, and National Intelligence Officer for South Asia.

"It has been a tremendous honor to work with Michael and the entire Stimson team," said White.

"I consider it a privilege to take up these issues at the NSC at a time when US engagement in South Asia is as important as it has ever been," he said in a statement.
Lavoy and White last month penned a joint article for the Foreign Policy magazine.

"Obama's India trip last week brought symbolism but also substance. This is a moment to press forward and demonstrate what the US-India relationship can become," they wrote.
"The US can and should continue to help to broker India's distinct global role, even as it presses New Delhi to resolve difficult issues such as intellectual property rights, foreign direct investment caps and trade restrictions that might limit India's own economic ambitions over the long-run," they wrote.

"Similarly, Washington should recognise that the vestiges of India's non-alignment policy afford it a rare ability to bridge between Russia, the Middle East, and the West, a position that could give it quiet influence in the global campaigns to deal with Iran's nuclear ambitions and the rise of the ISIS," they wrote in the article on February 4.
Lavoy and White argued that the US should encourage India's efforts to build a capable defense industrial base.

The United States should look for ways to promote India’s deeper engagement in Asian regional architecture, they said.

"Respecting India's history of non-alignment, the US can look for ways to deepen both the economic and defense elements of the burgeoning US-India-Japan relationship, and—in other trilateral and 'mini-lateral' formats—formalise cooperation on defence and counter-terrorism issues alongside common partners in Asia," they noted.

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