Reception for State Department’s Nisha Biswal


Secretary Nisha Biswal lights a diya as celebration of Diwali with applause from Consul General Anupam Ray and Indo-American community and business leaders.

By Pramod Kulkarni

Houston: Nisha Desai Biswal is representative of the growing influence of the second-generation of Indo-Americans in American government circles. On October 21, 2013, Ms. Desai Biswal was appointed to the post of Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, by President Barack Obama.

Biswal oversees U.S. foreign policy and relations in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Prior to the State Department appointment, Biswal served from September 2010 as Assistant Administrator for Asia at USAID, where she oversaw $1.2 billion in assistance to 22 nations.

Biswal’s in-laws hail from Houston. She combined a family visit with community receptions in Houston and Dallas.

Consulate General of India, with active participation of the Indo-American Chamber of Greater Houston (IACCGH) seized the opportunity to hold a reception for Biswal at the residence of CG Anupam Ray.

IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia served as the emcee for the reception. Ahluwalia was effusive in his praise of the Indian Consulate in Houston and the role of CG Ray in streamlining consular affairs and reaching out to the Indo-American community. In response, CG Ray showed his self deprecatory sense of humor by saying, “May God forgive Jagdip for lying so much, and may God forgive me for enjoying it so much.”

Speaking about India and the U.S., Ray said, “Relations between the U.S. and India, between the world’s oldest and youngest democracies, will define this century. The fact that there’s no inherent competition between these two nations is credit to diplomats such as Nisha Biswal.”

Several Indo-American leaders of Houston paid tribute to Biswal. These included Dr. Durga Agarwal of India House, Ramesh Shah of Ekal Vidyalaya, and Houston Metro boardmember Sanjay Ram, and Abeezar Tyebji, representing the Bohra community. Shah spoke movingly about Biswal as a family friend and her commitment to community service.”

In her response, Biswal said she was honored and felt privileged to be in Houston. “My husband was born here and my in-laws spent many years in Houston. In our home, we cheer for Houston sports teams,” she explained.

“I also wanted to come to Houston to reach out to the high achieving Houston community that is the bedrock on which U.S.-India relations is based,” Biswal said.

Speaking of U.S.-India relations, Biswal said there were many recent decades when the relationship could not grow beyond an annual resolution of friendship in the Congress. With the election of President Barack Obama and his pivot to Asia, the relations have become broad and deep. The bonds began to grow under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and expanded further with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “We now have leadership in both countries that is invested and committed to the relationship. It is now a relationship that could bring benefits to the entire world.”

“The very first state dinner that President Obama hosted was for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the very first foreign trip that Obama took was to India,” Biswal exulted.

Biswal said the Paris COP21 Global Climate Change agreement could not have taken place without a strong U.S.-India relationship. Other areas of cooperation, according to Biswal include combating terrorism, disaster relief such as aid to Nepal after the earthquake, and cooperation between India’s ISRO and America’s NASA space agencies.

Biswal also spoke of a broader relationship beyond U.S. and India as nations and governments, but transcends to a engages societal and local levels such as not just between “Washington and New Delhi, but also between Houston and Hyderabad and between Boston and Begaluru.”

Biswal said Houston, as a diverse, international city, has excellent opportunities for university to university and business to business links.

Subsequent to Biswal’s visit, Donnald Trump rode the anti-establishment wave to victory on Nov. 9 morning. A section of the BJP party in India and Indo-Americans in U.S. supported Trump so as to encourage the President-elect to say, “I love Hindus” and in broken Hindi, “Ab ki bar, Trump sarkar!”  Prime Minister Modi was among the first world leaders to congratulate Trump. As such, a close Trump-Modi bond could take U.S.-India relations even closer as never before could be anticipated.