Obama Nominates Puneet Talwar to Key State Dept. Post

Puneeth ralvar

President Barack Obama is briefed by Puneet Talwar (standing, in front of desk), senior director for Iraq, Iran and the Gulf States, at the White House Feb. 5, 2011. (White House photo)

By Indiawest

United States: President Barack Obama Sept. 10 nominated Puneet Talwar to the position of assistant secretary for political-military affairs in the State Department.

He currently serves as special assistant to the president and senior director for Iran, Iraq and the Gulf States on the White House National Security Staff, a post he has held since 2009.

Before that, Talwar was a senior professional staff member on the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee from 2001-2009 and from 1997-1999, and chief advisor on the Middle East to then Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Talwar served as a member of the State Department’s policy planning staff from 1999-2001, foreign policy advisor to Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer from 1992-1995, and an official at the United Nations from 1990-1992.

He has a B.S. from Cornell University and an M.A. from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

In announcing Talwar’s nomination along with other individuals Sept. 10, Obama said, “I am grateful that these talented and dedicated individuals have agreed to take on these important roles and devote their talents to serving the American people. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”

Back Channel reported that Talwar was one of Biden’s closest foreign policy advisors, has been deeply involved in the U.S. policy on Iran and participated in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program as a senior member of the U.S. negotiating team.

The “State Department political military affairs chief job, currently headed by acting assistant secretary Tom Kelly since the departure of Andrew Shapiro, involves decisions on U.S. arms sales and security assistance issues,” Back Channel said.

“Talwar has long worked on the region that accounts for the lion’s share of U.S. arms sales and military assistance, especially in recent years,” one official told the online publication.

He is the second Indian American nominated recently to the assistant secretary position in the state department. In July, Nisha Desai Biswal was nominated as the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia. Both the positions need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sept. 12 in her confirmation hearing, Biswal told lawmakers that advancing the India-U.S. strategic partnership will be a major priority for her if she is confirmed

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